Unlocking the power of the Solent to capture carbon

By University of Portsmouth | June 30, 2022

Scientists who want to restore areas of the Solent to help capture and store greenhouse gases are calling on local organisations, businesses and experts to join a special workshop this Friday (1 July).

An estimated 11 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent is captured each year in UK marine ecosystems and the Solent is one of Europe’s largest blue carbon sites. Blue carbon is the term used for carbon captured and stored in coastal marine environments, normally by seaweed, saltmarsh, algae and other marine habitats. 

Although these ecosystems are generally much smaller in size than forests, they capture and store carbon at a much faster and higher rate, and can continue to do so for thousands of years. Most of the carbon taken up is stored below ground where we can't see it. 

"Tackling climate change through nature-based solutions, in which the power of natural processes is used to support carbon uptake and build community resilience, is a significant strategic opportunity for the University of Portsmouth." - Dr. Jo Preston, Reader in Marine Ecology and Evolution, Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Portsmouth

Scientists at the University of Portsmouth believe much of the Solent’s potential to capture carbon remains untapped, with large areas impacted by industry and human activity. They are aiming to start an urgent conversation on how the area can be restored to help the UK achieve “net zero” emissions by 2050 and enhance access to improved ecosystem services, using the marine ecosystem as a natural carbon store. The workshop will be attended by national and local government, charities and other organisations. It will look at barriers to investment and discuss what research is needed to deliver data to investors to make it more attractive to them. 

Dr Jo PrestonReader in Marine Ecology and Evolution based in the Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Portsmouth, said: Tackling climate change through nature-based solutions, in which the power of natural processes is used to support carbon uptake and build community resilience, is a significant strategic opportunity for the University of Portsmouth. 

"For the first time, this project brings together researchers from across the University to develop a critical mass in blue carbon research." - Dr. Jo Preston, Reader in Marine Ecology and Evolution, Institute of Marine Sciences, University of Portsmouth

“Restoring degraded coastal habitats to capture blue carbon, such as seagrass, oyster reefs, kelp, and salt marsh are particularly effective solutions as these habitats are comparatively easy to restore and capture substantial carbon quickly. It is estimated that saltmarsh and seagrass habitats alone fix and store carbon at 2-4 times the rate of mature tropical forests. 

“For the first time, this project brings together researchers from across the University to develop a critical mass in blue carbon research.”

The Solent Blue Carbon Restoration Initiative will be hosted at the Institute of Marine Sciences, by the Centre for Blue Governance and Faculty of Science and Health at the University of Portsmouth. The workshop is focused on creating solutions and will bring people together with insight and knowledge to unlock the power of the Solent to capture the carbon dioxide that causes climate change.

The University of Portsmouth is a founding member of the UK Blue Carbon Forum, formed in 2021 to address the important role of blue carbon in mitigating the current ecological and climate emergency.