South Tyneside Council has secured £6.9m in funding to use with the aim of strengthening North Eastern coastlines and their communities in the face of flooding, erosion and the impacts of climate change.

The funding is part of the Stronger Shores initiative, funded by Defra’s £150m Flood and Coastal Resilience Innovation Programme which aims to develop new approaches to help communities become more resilient to the effects of flooding and climate change, the Chronicle has reported. Experts working on the initiative are attempting to learn how hidden underwater habitats – seagrass meadows, kelp forests and oyster reefs – improve water quality, erosion, wave impacts, wildlife and more.

Stronger Shores is expected to launch in Spring 2023 and the eventual aim is to help the region become a “world leader” in sustainable climate solutions

Councillor Ernest Gibson, lead member for transport and neighbourhoods at South Tyneside Council, said: “marine habitats such as seagrass meadows, kelp forests and oyster reefs can act as natural buffers that protect coastlines, enhance community benefits and reduce maintenance costs for existing coastal protection. By investing in protecting these seabed habitats now, we hope to see ongoing benefits for people and planet.”

Restoration approaches tested 

Through Stronger Shores, a network of experts will test new restoration approaches with the aim of better understanding how these habitats can improve water quality, reduce erosion and structural damage, help to stabilise shorelines, reduce wave impacts, create rich wildlife, protect against pollution, improve fisheries, protect against climate change, provide community recreation areas, and extend the lifespan of man-made coastal defences. The project is supported by Newcastle University, Tees River Trust, The North Sea Wildlife Trusts, Groundwork North East & Cumbria, University of Plymouth, and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).

Claire Fitzsimmons, professor of marine ecosystems and governance from Newcastle University, said: “We are very excited to be working with Stronger Shores in the delivery of ground-breaking, interdisciplinary research to determine the roles of natural and restored kelp, seagrass and oyster beds in protecting our coasts. 

“We will pilot restoration of key habitats testing new techniques to support recovery, while making sure our innovative measurement and monitoring methods can identify the most effective solutions. Then, working with University of Plymouth, we can identify critical links between ecological outcomes and benefits for society, filling significant knowledge gaps and testing a robust framework for future projects to follow.”

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