Application of the natural capital approach to the marine environment to aid decision-making

Title: Application of the natural capital approach to the marine environment to aid decision-making

Funder and duration: Defra 2018-2020

Lead partner: Plymouth Marine Laboratory

Location: UK

University of Plymouth staff: Dr Sian Rees

The aim of this project is to improve understanding of how the natural capital approach can be applied to the marine environment and how this links to UK national policy, particularly in terms of assessing trade-offs and value for money in monitoring, protection and rebuilding of marine assets. 

Why is it important to consider the natural capital approach?

  • Are existing data and frameworks fit for purpose? If not, what is required and how can this be improved? 
  • What are the key gaps in evidence to support the application of the natural capital approach in the marine environment? 
  • Where can additional primary valuation data be most usefully applied? 
  • Can an improved approach robustly aid decision makers and assess value for money associated with policy changes applied in the context of marine? 
  • Can important trade-offs be established, quantified and where possible integrated into policy decision-making tools? 


Funding to boost research

Environment Minister Thérèse Coffey announced the funding during a visit to Britain’s Ocean City and its renowned marine institutions, during which she met leaders and researchers from PML, the University of Plymouth, Marine Biological Association, Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science and the National Marine Aquarium.

Read the press release

Credit: Plymouth Marine Laboratory

“Alongside being home to a fantastic array of wildlife, our seas and coasts are vital for people and livelihoods too – supporting countless coastal communities, boosting our economy through tourism and providing millions of people with a place for leisure and recreation. Looking at the value of nature in economic and social terms helps us better understand the choices we make, and this project will build on our world leading marine science to embed a natural capital approach into decision making – helping us protect one of most precious assets for future generations.”

Thérèse Coffey, Environment Minister

“The University is working with partners to develop world-class research on the application of the natural capital approach in the marine environment. Though the development of natural capital tools to support decision making we aim to pioneer innovative approaches to marine management that promote a ‘net gain’ for biodiversity and society.”

Dr Sian Rees, Senior Research Fellow at the University of Plymouth