Ambitious new collaborations will investigate biggest UK environmental challenges

Researchers will receive a total of £47 million to address some of the most critical environmental challenges facing the UK. 

  • Teams led by NERC research centres will receive funding to tackle six critical environmental science challenges facing the UK
  • This will enable research teams to investigate extreme weather, coastal flooding, sustainable energy creation, carbon capture and more
  • NERC’s investment will enable more ambitious, integrated approaches to large-scale research challenges that would not be possible for any single research centre to deliver alone

The funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC) has been awarded to NERC research centres and arm-length bodies that individually specialise in earth, ecological ocean, polar, and atmospheric science. Research teams from the centres will work collaboratively to better understand coastal flooding, greenhouse gas emissions, changes in biodiversity and other critical environmental issues.

The National Oceanography Centre (NOC), in collaboration with the British Geological Survey and UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, will be studying the combined weather-related threats that cause coastal flooding and erosion and, in doing so, help the UK to better predict and mitigate how storms will affect coastal communities.

Coastal hazards: multi-hazard controls on flooding and erosion (CHAMFER)

Led by the National Oceanography Centre, in collaboration with the British Geological Survey and UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology.

Project partners include the Met Office Hadley Centre, UK; Risk Management Solutions Ltd, USA; Environment Agency, UK; Climate Change Committee, UK.

Coastal flooding and erosion often result from hazardous events occurring simultaneously, cascadingly, or cumulatively over time. This project will deliver new understanding of how weather-related multi-hazards control coastal flooding and erosion; determine how these multi-hazards will respond to climate change and coastal management; and provide advice to stakeholders on coastal management and adaptation options. In turn, this will support improved predictions of the consequences of the ‘perfect storm’ and the ability to develop effective and sustainable solutions.

Dr Laurent Amoudry, Associate Head of Marine Physics and Ocean Climate, stated: “Extreme events already have dramatic impacts at the coast and coastal hazards will be increasing in the future. Coastal disasters rarely are the result of a single effect on its own. That is why it is so important to take into account how weather-related hazardous events combine with each other, with long-term climate trends, and with coastal management.&rdquo

This project supports our commitment to PROTECT people and property from natural disasters. Learn more about the big science the NOC is undertaking to address the big challenges of our future.

Other research projects led by the NERC Multicentre collaboration will:

  • understand how sea-ice loss and glacial melting in polar regions affect the chemical balance of the oceans and, in particular, their capacity to sequester carbon and to support ocean productivity and fish stocks.
  • advance our understanding of how extreme weather and its impacts on the UK will be shaped by climate change in the Arctic and North Atlantic.
  • support UK agriculture's transition towards net zero emissions and improved sustainability by providing researchers and stakeholders with data from national sensor networks, satellites and a network of commercial study farms and study catchments. 
  • assess the future environmental, social and economic sustainability of offshore wind with blue/green hydrogen production, geological storage, and utilisation of carbon dioxide and hydrogen as a potential energy transition solution for achieving UK net zero greenhouse gas emissions.
  • investigate mitigation strategies that limit future climate change, for example, afforestation, rewilding, methane emission reductions and pathways to net zero.

This funding comes from the NERC National Capability Multi-Centre Science programme, which aims to enable a more ambitious, integrated approach to large-scale research challenges than any single research centre can deliver alone. The research centres involved are:

  • British Antarctic Survey
  • British Geological Survey
  • National Centre for Atmospheric Science
  • National Centre for Earth Observation
  • National Oceanography Centre
  • UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology
  • Plus a delivery partner, Plymouth Marine Laboratory

The NERC research centres will partner with key national and international institutes to deliver these ambitious projects, including the Met Office, Rothamsted Research, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds in the UK and the Helmholtz Centre for Polar and Marine Research in Germany.

Dr Iain Williams, NERC Director of Strategic Partnerships, said: “This investment in NERC’s research centres will advance our understanding of the drivers of climatic and biodiversity changes, their impact on the UK environment and how we can mitigate and adapt to such changes.

“By bringing together the wide-ranging expertise and specialist facilities from across NERC’s centres, along with our key partners, these projects will power scientific discoveries that will help us adapt to, tackle or predict the impact of changes to our climate.”