The Solent Forum, working with partners, is developing an information hub to share knowledge and best practice on building biodiversity into coastal infrastructure as a service for Solent Forum members.
Building biodiversity as a concept is part of the overall movement towards using nature based solutions to address societal issues. The ICUN defines this as:
“actions to protect, sustainably manage and restore natural or modified ecosystems that address societal challenges effectively and adaptively, simultaneously providing human well-being and biodiversity benefits”.
A BBS Working Group was set up to scope the hub and the notes of the inaugural meeting provide the basis for the work programme. A terms of reference was agreed. One of the key ways the Forum will obtain information, especially case studies, will be by developing an online pro-forma to collate information.
The topics of Biodiversity Net Gain and natural capital are currently outside the scope of this work, but we will collate resources on these topics for use by Solent Forum members.
Government planning policy is that 'development whose primary objective is to conserve or enhance biodiversity should be supported; while opportunities to incorporate biodiversity improvements in and around developments should be encouraged, especially where this can secure measurable net gains for biodiversity'.
The Solent has all the key issues that need to be considered in developing ecologically sound coastal infrastructure, and would provide a useful pilot for the rest of the country. It has major infrastructure such as roads, rail, airports, ports, water treatment works and energy provision alongside dense centres of population that further increase through the summer tourist season. This is backed by a tight urban boundary with intensive and extensive agriculture, significant competing economic interests, multi-designated sites of environmental protection, and a strong set of academic institutions. Major issues that the Solent has to contend with include: flood defence, water and air quality, developable space, coastal squeeze, loss of biodiversity, economic disparity and fragility and transitions in coastal land use and land management.
This hub is designed to share and promote information on how to retain and increase the biodiversity of the Solent's infrastructure. Ideas that the hub could collate information on include ecological design for new infrastructure, the construction and design of habitats and natural systems to recover, repair or sustain flood defences, boosting biodiversity, growing fisheries, and improving air and water quality. It could also help to drive research and innovation and field test new ideas for deployment.
The Forum has already begun to deliver on this topic by working with the Environment Agency to publicise existing work on ecological enhancement of the coast. A further project has been delivered for the Environment Agency on Opportunity Mapping in Southampton Water.
Defra recognises that green and blue infrastructure can contribute to carbon storage, cooling and shading, opportunities for species migration to more suitable habitats and the protection of water quality and other natural resources. It can also be an integral part of multifunctional sustainable drainage and natural flood risk management.