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Natural Capital

Natural capital

Eilish Calnan

Key points

  • This report summarises the research being done by the University of Exeter onthe topic of natural capital
  • Natural capital has always been important for Cornwall’s heritage, present, and future
  • From using seaweed as biofuel to micro-climate farming, this report brings together a range of research


Natural capital has always been at the heart of Cornwall and holds an important place in the formation of a distinct Cornish identity. With three coasts and the River Tamar almost severing the region from the UK, Cornwall has a rich history of looking inwards and being resourceful. A tradition of independence and self-sufficiency has endured, and now Cornwall aims to preserve and protect rather than exploit the natural resources in Cornwall. The University of Exeter, along with other partners, have been carrying out research into the various aspects of natural capital, past, present and future.

Natural capital research in Cornwall can often be divided into a few categories: marine, mining and agriculture and this report begins with the LiFT Project, which explores the potential for economically viable and environmentally safe lithium extraction. Cornwall and the South West are at the forefront for the development of seaweed farming; seaweed is an infinitely useful material as it can be used for a plethora of things, from medicine to a healthy source of protein and omega-3, it also helps combat ocean acidification and widens habitats. The Lagas mapping tool has been developed to help individuals and businesses better understand the natural environment of Cornwall, similar to how the ESI have been researching the potential for micro-climate farming. Farming on a smaller scale can have benefits in an ever changing climate. Also from the ESI, research on pollinators and the benefits of grass verges and hedges has shown that these areas are invaluable places for pollinators to thrive. The value of the marine and maritime industry to Cornwall has deep historical roots and research has shown the innovative nature of this industry, as well as the challenges it currently faces. Whilst this research identifies challenges businesses face, the Tevi project focuses on encouraging businesses to take an interdisciplinary approach and advises businesses on working to create a healthy economy alongside a thriving natural environment. The ExeMPLaR project seeks to overcome the plastics problem through using the principles of a circular economy and to benefit the community, the Growing Communities Through Nature project aims to enhance communities through connection to the physical environment. Much of the research being carried out works to enhance community, and encourage a thriving economy whilst keeping the environment healthy.

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