Challenge: Measuring the first full carbon balance of a saltmarsh habitat

Ongoing development of the UK Saltmarsh Carbon Code will pave the way for increased funding for saltmarsh restoration which will contribute towards the UK's net zero goals. Saltmarshes collect and store carbon-rich sediment, with plants above-ground photosynthesising and below-ground microbes breaking down organic matter.

The WWF Saltmarsh Research Platform will be the first site to measure the full carbon balance of saltmarsh habitat. It is located on the Ribble Estuary which features two of the largest saltmarsh restoration sites in north-west England. These saltmarshes have a range of international conservation designations and have been studied by UKCEH for more than a decade, providing a comprehensive background understanding of the saltmarsh ecology, upon which the new research platform can be built.


  1. Install a saltmarsh eddy covariance (EC) flux tower monitoring platform and integrate into the existing network of terrestrial EC flux towers.
  2. Develop novel methodologies of lateral carbon flux measurements in a saltmarsh system.
  3. Analyse long-term trends and variability of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions on a saltmarsh.


  • Greenhouse Gas fluxes will be measured near-realtime using a flux tower.
  • Soil cores will be taken and analysed in line with IPCC methodology and the UK GHG Flux Network.
  • Lateral carbon flux will be estimated by mapping tidal water flowing into the saltmarsh. This map will be created from measurements of soil moisture, water height, flow, temperature and salinity. Autosamplers measuring dissolved and particulate carbon measurements throughout the tidal cycle will then show the dynamics of carbon movement with the body of water. 

Outputs: The first full carbon balance of a saltmarsh

This will provide key carbon flux data needed for future incorporation into the UK's Net Zero strategy and the UK GHG inventory. The site will be added to the existing network of GHG flux measurements and will benefit from UKCEH in-house knowledge, experience, and standards previously applied to peatland and agricultural systems.

UKCEH people

Principal Investigator
Coastal Ecosystem Scientist


This project is funded by WWF and Aviva Insurance.

WWF and Aviva logos with the strapline Acting on climate change to build a better tomorrow