How much is Dorset's Jurassic Coast worth?
One of the most beautiful places on the planet – the Jurassic coast of Dorset is rightly famous for its scenery and importance in the history of science.
But now marine scientists are looking to spend millions of pounds on an international collaboration which aims to put a specific value on the benefits for communities living on the Dorset coast.
Teams of researchers have been given 4.3 million euros (£3.5 million) by the European Union to work out the value in money terms of the beauty and resources of the coast from Dorset down to Cornwall and, on the other side of the Channel, on the northern side of Brittany.
The serious inquiry will look to compare the values of all the different pressures – from tourism to fishing and from scenery to oil exploration – that are competing for their slice of the Dorset coast. “Managing this shared space effectively is critical to enable the sustainable use of this resource,” explained Dr Steve Fletcher, from the University of Plymouth.
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“We aim to show how placing monetary and non-monetary values on ecosystem services can enhance policy, planning and management of marine and coastal environments.”
The benefits to health of being, or living, by the coast have long been recognised but the economic values for individual communities are far more difficult to quantify, he explained.
“If an inland community is run down, you can say invest in its infrastructure or build offices to generate employment and income. But for coastal communities it is more difficult because they do not have the same land base available.
“At the same time, building an offshore wind farm, for example, may work for some areas but not others. This is about developing a joined-up approach that will help coastal communities thrive in the future,” he added.
From the English and French sides of the Channel, six communities will be chosen to act as case studies, and the research team will look to test elements of the developing framework within those areas.
The project, known as “Valmer”, is due to be launched this week in Plymouth.
Project manager Ness Smith said: “Marine planning is becoming a vital area of focus for coastal communities as it covers how they use the areas above, in and under the sea’s surface.”