EU funding boost for climate change research

Researchers from the Ecostructure team at IBERS have been attaching specially-designed experimental tiles to natural and man-made sea defences in Borth near Aberystwyth to create new habitats for marine life.

Researchers from the Ecostructure team at IBERS have been attaching specially-designed experimental tiles to natural and man-made sea defences in Borth near Aberystwyth to create new habitats for marine life.

30 July 2020

Three major research projects involving Aberystwyth University scientists have been awarded additional European Union funding of €4.5m (£3.9m).

The Ecostructure, Acclimatize and CHERISH projects are all funded by the Interreg Ireland-Wales programme and address pressing questions to help coastal communities on both sides of the Irish Sea adapt to climate change and other challenges.

The announcement was made by Welsh Government Counsel General and Minister for European Transition, Jeremy Miles.

Mr Miles said: “The Ireland-Wales co-operation programme is continuing to support cross-border learning and best practice. This relationship brings together researchers and experts from both nations to overcome shared challenges, and to make the most of opportunities on both sides of the Irish Sea.

“The second phase of these three influential projects will help coastal communities to adapt in various ways. This will boost local businesses, benefit regional tourism, improve bathing waters and recreational facilities, as well as informing policy decisions.”

The announcement has been welcomed by Professor Colin McInnes, Pro Vice-Chancellor for Research, Knowledge Exchange & Innovation at Aberystwyth University, said: “Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing our planet and as a University, we are committed to undertaking collaborative, interdisciplinary research to deepen our understanding of the issues and explore potential solutions.

“We are therefore delighted that EU funding has been extended for the Ecostructure, Acclimatize and CHERISH projects, which all focus on the impact of climate change on our communities, habitats and everyday lives.”

Led by researchers at Aberystwyth University’s Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences (IBERS), Ecostructure was initially awarded EU funding of €3.25m in 2017 to facilitate greater use of nature-based solutions to enhance the ecological value of artificial coastal structures along the Welsh and Irish coasts

As part of the project, existing eco-engineered interventions from around the world have been tested in the Irish Sea and new designs created and attached to artificial structures such as sea defences to investigate their role in providing new habitats for marine life. 

The project has now been awarded a further €1.61m by the EU to continue its work for a further 18 months in collaboration with University College Dublin, Bangor University, University College Cork and Swansea University.

Dr Joe Ironside, project lead for Ecostructure and Senior Lecturer at IBERS, said: “The additional funding will allow us to conduct larger-scale trials of our nature-based interventions, moving us further towards implementation at a commercial scale. In addition the extra funding will enable us to extend our work from the intertidal zone into the subtidal, allowing us to work on commercially important species and to include offshore structures.”

Researchers on the Acclimatize project are working to improve the quality of bathing waters along the west coast of Wales and the Irish Sea.

They are developing novel approaches to safeguarding public health protection through risk prediction and the regulation of sea bathing waters. 

Their findings to date have been presented to EU meetings in Brussels and to the World Health Organisation (WH0) in Geneva, and have informed international policy-making.

Led by University College Dublin in collaboration with Aberystwyth University, the project has now been awarded an additional €1.9m through the Ireland-Wales programme.

Professor Dave Kay, who leads the team based at Aberystwyth University’s Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, said: “With the additional funding, we will be able to continue working with our colleagues in Dublin and making the natural bathing waters safer for the people who use them, which safeguards the local communities where their economic resilience is dependent on visitors attracted by beaches and coastal waters.

“Over the next three years, our research at Aberystwyth will focus on climate change implications and water quality remediation. We will also be carrying out a tracer investigation at one site in Wales (New Quay North) as well as microbial source tracking at others.” 

Capturing the effects of climate change on coastal heritage is the focus of the CHERISH (Climate, Heritage and Environments of Reefs, Islands and Headlands) research project led by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Wales in collaboration with The Department of Geography and Earth Sciences, Aberystwyth University.

Working in partnership with The Geological Survey of Ireland and the Discovery Programme – Centre for Archaeology and Innovation Ireland, the project teams are using cutting-edge technologies to analyse coastal and island archaeology, and maritime heritage sites most affected by climate change, coastal erosion, storms and rising sea levels.

Further funding of €1m from the Interreg Ireland-Wales programme has now been announced, bringing the total grant from the EU to over €5m.

Dr Sarah Davies, Head of the Department of Geography & Earth Sciences at Aberystwyth University, said: “The storms of February 2020 were a further reminder of how vulnerable our coastal landscape is to the elements. This additional European funding will enable us to continue our work on developing an integrated monitoring approach to coastal heritage and to expand our activities with coastal communities and stakeholders.”