Principal Investigator: Louisa Evans, Exeter University

This research will be the first to develop a nexus perspective on resilience, wellbeing and sustainability to acknowledge that any solution for one objective must equally consider the other two in the nexus.

The climate and ecological emergencies, Brexit and Covid-19 illustrate the enormity of change and disturbance currently impacting coastal communities in the UK, and the urgency of building resilience to accelerating, multi-faceted and new forms of risk. This research aims to build the knowledge and know-how to enhance the resilience of marine resource-users to environmental, regulatory and socio-cultural change, while simultaneously improving their wellbeing and reducing adverse impacts on the marine environment.

Marine investment, policy and management decisions are often understood as prioritisation decisions (“this or that”), but they can also involve system interactions and trade-offs, and so create winners and losers. Trade-off conflicts manifest in policy consultation, planning and licensing decisions, and in the everyday behaviours of resource-users choosing to support (or not) particular interventions. 

There is, therefore, increasing impetus to be explicit about trade-offs where they can explain the political acceptability, effectiveness and durability of marine plans, fisheries regulations, protected area designations or offshore wind farms. To date, research has focused on ecological trade-offs or social-ecological trade-offs related to tensions between environmental sustainability and human welfare and wellbeing, with little attention to resilience. Yet, emerging research shows trade-offs between resilience and wellbeing, and between resilience and sustainability with important implications for marine policy and practice.

This research will apply the nexus perspective to on-the-ground and policy interventions to systematically evaluate synergies and trade-offs among resilience, wellbeing and sustainability across scales and sectors, and to identify opportunities to improve these outcomes together. This will address the three themes of the SMMR programme by: 

Project deliverables include: a new nexus perspective; a low-tech trade-off decision-support framework for use by policymakers and implementers, and; evidence that applying a nexus perspective can improve both policy and on-the-ground interventions in marine social-ecological systems in the UK across the domains of marine heritage, sustainable development of communities, and marine environmental regulation.

This research will be world leading and of international importance. The resilience of people, communities and ecosystems underpins global action to sustainably manage aquatic ecosystems (SDG14), respond to climate change (SDG13), and deliver enduring improvements in wellbeing (SDG1+2). Our research addresses a significant gap in knowledge of how nexus dynamics play out across scales that will be fundamental to successful delivery of these Sustainable Development Goals.

This project is a collaboration between the University of Exeter, European Centre for Environment and Human Health, Plymouth Marine Laboratory, practitioners (Devon Maritime Forum, Cornwall Rural Community Charity, and Sole of Discretion), and policy-makers and implementers (including Cornwall and Devon Councils, Marine Management Organisation, DEFRA and Marine Scotland).