Going back to nature will strengthen shores

Image: Hermansyah, Unsplash

Effective ways to use the power of nature to restore the ocean’s health are being explored by a network of experts.

The Stronger Shores initiative aims to enable communities and coastlines in the north-east of England to counter the threat of climate change through nature. It will test a range of restoration approaches, looking at how these could benefit communities along the coast of the North Sea.

How restoration interventions can reduce erosion and structural damage, help to stabilise shorelines, reduce wave impacts, protect against climate change and extend the lifespan of man-made coastal defences are all areas to be examined. Researchers will also look at the best ways to improve water quality, create rich wildlife, protect against pollution, improve fisheries and provide community recreation.

"We have shown that nature has the potential to be a powerful tool in helping us fight pressing challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss."

Sian Rees, University of Plymouth

Funded by the UK government department for the environment, the £7million project is being led by South Tyneside Council, with partners University of Plymouth, Newcastle University, Tees Rivers Trust, The North Sea Wildlife Trusts, Zoological Society of London and Groundwork North East & Cumbria.

Councillor Ernest Gibson of South Tyneside said, “Our coastline is one of our greatest treasures but, over the years, important natural habitats have been lost.

“Many areas are threatened by flooding, erosion and storms and climate change will only make this worse. If we do nothing, habitats, manmade coastal defences and communities could all suffer.

“That’s why we’re proud to have secured this funding for Stronger Shores, which will allow us to turn to the hidden habitats below the waves for an affordable, long-term solution.”

Image: Michael Kurzynowski, Unsplash

Researchers at the University of Plymouth are at the forefront of developing conservation policies informed by the natural assets of regions across the UK. In this new project, the team will help develop research to understand the social and economic impacts of nature restoration work.

Dr Sian Rees, University of Plymouth associate professor of social-ecological systems, said, “Over many years, we have shown that nature has the potential to be a powerful tool in helping us fight pressing challenges such as climate change and biodiversity loss. The findings from this research will deliver progress in enabling us to understand the role of natural and restored kelp, seagrass and oyster beds in protecting our coasts and boosting biodiversity.”

Stronger Shores is part of Defra's £150 million Flood & Coastal Resilience Innovation Programme to develop new approaches to help communities become more resilient to the effects of flooding and climate change.