Marine Natural Capital Development on the Cumbrian Solway: Current status, gaps and opportunities
The Solway Firth is a large and dynamic estuary that joins Dumfries and Galloway, in Scotland, to Cumbria, in England. Its vast and wild landscape is home to a mosaic of habitats, history and heritage. The coastal landscape has been characterised by a long history of agriculture, with large areas of traditionally-grazed saltmarsh. The saltmarshes, sand dunes, sand and mudflats support high levels of biodiversity including great numbers of internationally important bird species and commercially important fish and shellfish populations. This report describes a baseline assessment of the natural capital assets of the Cumbrian Solway Firth and reviews the potential opportunities for enhancing or restoring the ecosystem services provided by these assets to ensure the long-term provision of valuable benefits. Throughout the report, the Solway being referred to is the Cumbrian Solway, unless the Scottish side is specifically indicated.
On the English side of the Solway Firth, key natural capital assets include, saltmarshes, sand dunes and biogenic reefs. There are also vast areas of sublittoral sand and mud habitats. These assets provide valuable benefits from climate change mitigation through the sequestration and storage of carbon, to alleviating flood and erosion risk by stabilising sediments and attenuating wave and tidal energy. They also form habitats, increasing biodiversity and maintaining nursery populations of important fish and shellfish species. They play a role in regulating water quality and provide opportunities for wildlife watching, walking and other recreational activities that improve human wellbeing.
A large part of this project involved consultation with local stakeholders and other relevant projects and organisations around the UK. This was done through one-to-one meetings and an on-line stakeholder workshop. During the workshop it was recommended that the focus of this report, and future restoration efforts, should be on saltmarshes, sand dunes and water quality. Climate change mitigation, biodiversity enhancement and improved water quality were identified as the key beneficial ecosystem services provided by the Solway’s natural capital assets and therefore should also be a focus for any natural capital projects.
The natural capital approach takes into consideration the value of the natural environment for society and the economy. To understand the value of natural capital assets, it is important to have knowledge of the spatial extent, condition and location of the assets as well as the different pressures that act on them. This information will help to inform priorities for restoration of key ecosystems, habitats or species populations.
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Work is continuing with partners to look at opportunities to enhance marine natural capital on the Cumbrian Solway.