Over 130 saltmarsh experts from a range of organisations gathered in Dumfries this week to attend the UK Saltmarsh Forum to identify key areas for future research to increase knowledge of valuable saltmarsh habitats.

Chaired by UKCEH coastal ecologist Angus Garbutt and hosted by the Solway Firth Partnership and WWT UK, the Forum brought together policymakers, government agencies, academics, civil engineering companies, NGOs and business in order to network, develop partnerships and hear about the latest developments and topics around UK saltmarshes.

Màiri McAllan, Scottish Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Energy, welcomed delegates via video. She commented, "As we continue to research and understand our saltmarshes better, we know that they are critical blue carbon habitats and one that must be protected and managed effectively to support and to accelerate the contribution of our seas and coastal habitats to delivering a nature-positive, circular, net zero economy."

The main emphasis of the meeting was on highlighting evidence gaps in saltmarsh research. Delegates heard from Graham Underwood from Essex University, chair of the UK Blue Carbon Evidence Partnership, who highlighted a new report.

This report aims to help accelerate action to manage, protect, enhance and restore blue carbon habitats in the UK by identifying gaps in current research. The Evidence Needs Statement draws on the latest science, policy, and delivery expertise across the UK to identify several critical ‘evidence gaps’ in the management, creation, and protection of blue carbon habitats. Senior coastal habitats specialists for Natural England, NatureScot and Natural Resources Wales highlighted a serious of evidence gaps following an inter-agency meeting.

UKCEH coastal ecologist Angus Garbutt, who chairs the UK Saltmarsh Forum and the UK Blue Carbon Forum: habitats, conservation and restoration working group, comments:

"The Forum provides a great opportunity to bring together saltmarsh specialists from many organisations. Working with the UK Blue Carbon Evidence Partnership and the UK Blue Carbon Forum, the UK Saltmarsh Forum is going to enable the flow of evidence from scientists to policymakers helping to shape future plans for these important habitats.”

The 2024 event was hosted by the Solway Firth Partnership and was part of the ambitious Solway Coast and Marine Pilot Project (SCAMPP).

Related UKCEH links

UKCEH blue carbon and saltmarsh research

UKCEH podcast – Secrets of the Saltmarsh:450