CDTS314: Enabling Biodiversity Credits for the Protection and Restoration of Subtidal Seagrass Beds

   The School of Biological and Marine Sciences

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  Dr Siân Rees, Dr Ethan Addicott, Prof Martin Attrill  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Seagrass is an important marine habitat that provides benefits to society in the form of ecosystem services. These services include, but are not limited to: the provision of food via fisheries, the regulation of water quality and the ability to sequester and store carbon. In the UK, seagrass beds have declined rapidly over the last 100 years. Currently, efforts to protect, restore and create seagrass habitat, beyond spatial management measures (e.g., Marine Protected Areas), rely on grant funding and donations. Whilst there is much focus on blue carbon markets to fill this funding gap, recent research developed by this team as part of the Defra funded Natural Environment Investment Readiness Fund (NEIRF) is recommending that blended models that include both carbon and biodiversity credits may offer a more sustainable form of finance and could facilitate the protection, restoration and creation of seagrass at scale. The new ecological, economic and social knowledge generated by this PhD will enable a rapid and evidence-led roll out of sustainable finance tools, with an ambition to increase the extent and condition of seagrass beds in the UK.

This aim of this PhD is to provide the evidence base for marketable biodiversity credits for subtidal seagrass through addressing the following research questions:

  • RQ1: What is the current status and trends in the development of the biodiversity credit market to date and what lessons can be learned?
  • RQ2 - How can a seagrass biodiversity credit be defined and measured for a seagrass bed in ‘favourable condition’.
  • RQ3 - What is the biodiversity uplift across subtidal seagrass beds under 4 different conditions ‘favourable condition’; ‘Unfavourable condition’; Restored seagrass (yr 1-3); potential restoration site and how does this change the availability or flows of ecosystem services.
  • RQ 4- What is the potential for scaling seagrass biodiversity credits across the UK to support seagrass protection and restoration and what are the benefits?
  • RQ 5 - How does the new research on biodiversity credits inform the development of both the statutory (BNG) and voluntary (biodiversity tokens) approach?

OCT will support the fieldwork for the PhD student, with the student having the opportunity to join fieldtrips to the seagrass beds in Plymouth Sound/South West taking place as part of the ongoing Blue Meadows project between 2025 and 2027. Sonardyne have recently donated a new Remove Operated Vehicle (ROV) to OCT. The ROV built by MarineSee will be used for precision mapping using a Sonardyne SPRINT-Nav Mini navigation system and EIVA Mobula Pro software. The student may have the opportunity to be trained in the use of the ROV and associated software.


Applicants should have a first or upper second-class honours degree in an appropriate subject and either a relevant masters qualification or a wider range of experience in a relevant career path (which is equally as important). Candidates who can demonstrate a clear interest and/or experience in economics will be preferred for this PhD.

Each applicant may apply for a studentship on up to three CDT SuMMeR projects. Where more than one project is applied for, the supervisors of all those projects will be made aware that other applications have been made.

The studentship is supported for 3 years and 8 months. All UKRI-funded PhD students (UK, EU, International) will be eligible for the full award – both the stipend to support living costs (£18,622 per academic year at full time equivalent at the 2023/24 rate), and fees at the research organisation’s UK rate. International students are eligible for UKRI-funded postgraduate studentships but UKRI will limit the proportion of international students appointed each year through individual doctoral training programmes to 30% of the intake per cohort. CDT SuMMeR’s funding will not cover international fees set by universities; applicants normally required to pay international fees may have to cover the difference between the home and the international tuition fee rates (approximately £12,697 per annum). Please enquire with the lead supervisor on the situation regarding international fees for the project you are interested in. CDT SuMMeR’s funding will not cover costs associated with visa application or health surcharges, or additional costs associated with entry to, and living in, the UK. For EU and international eligibility for UKRI studentships, see UKRI’s guidance.

In case of uncertainty, applicants should contact the planned university of registration for eligibility advice, or the CDT SuMMeR Programme Office: [Email Address Removed]

Biological Sciences (4) Economics (10) Environmental Sciences (13) Geography (17)

Funding Notes

CDT SuMMeR studentships are partially funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), which applies the eligibility criteria laid down by its parent body, UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), and co-funded by the respective Hosting Partner institutes. UKRI provides details on its training grants in its Terms and Conditions for Training Funding document, including its Training Grant Guide, which can be found on the UKRI website.
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