Pioneering Carbon Flux Tower to Unlock UK Saltmarshes’ Climate Mitigation Role: Aviva and WWF Investigate Carbon Storage and Coastal Restoration

Pioneering Carbon Flux Tower to Unlock UK Saltmarshes’ Climate Mitigation Role: Aviva and WWF Investigate Carbon Storage and Coastal Restoration

(IN BRIEF) Aviva and WWF have launched a pioneering research project aimed at harnessing the potential of UK saltmarsh habitats to combat climate change by capturing carbon emissions. A carbon flux tower will be installed in the Ribble Estuary, Lancashire, to measure the carbon cycle and assess saltmarshes’ capacity as long-term carbon stores. The research will also study the impact of rising sea levels on these habitats. This initiative supports Aviva’s goal of making the UK the most climate-ready large economy by 2030. Saltmarshes are critical for biodiversity and flood protection, and this project aims to restore and expand these ecosystems while capturing carbon emissions.

(PRESS RELEASE) LONDON, 9-Oct-2023 — /EuropaWire/ — Aviva plc (LON: AV), a British multinational insurance company, and WWF (World Wide Fund for Nature) are excited to unveil a pioneering research project focused on harnessing the climate mitigation potential of UK saltmarsh habitats and their role in carbon removal from the atmosphere. This groundbreaking initiative, featuring a state-of-the-art saltmarsh research platform, will enable scientists to assess the carbon storage and sequestration capabilities of saltmarshes across the United Kingdom.

The centerpiece of this endeavor involves the installation of a cutting-edge carbon flux tower on the picturesque Ribble Estuary in Lancashire. This tower will comprehensively measure the entire carbon cycle, validating the vital role of saltmarshes as long-term natural carbon reservoirs. Furthermore, it will investigate the impact of rising sea levels on these precious habitats, providing essential insights for prioritizing saltmarsh restoration and conservation efforts. By continuously monitoring the flow of carbon between the landscape and the atmosphere, in conjunction with conventional methods for analyzing carbon stored in saltmarsh soils, this research will quantify the amount of carbon captured, the rate of capture, and the duration of storage. Aviva’s involvement in this project aligns with its commitment to making the UK the most climate-ready large economy by 2030.

This groundbreaking research, conducted in partnership with WWF, and in collaboration with the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH) and the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB), will contribute valuable insights into the carbon capture and storage potential of saltmarshes, ultimately contributing to the establishment of a UK Saltmarsh Code.

Native to the British Isles, saltmarshes play a pivotal role in combatting climate change by serving as enduring natural carbon reservoirs, a phenomenon often referred to as ‘blue carbon’ when it occurs in coastal and marine ecosystems. Additionally, saltmarshes are vital for reversing biodiversity loss and creating a rich and unique habitat for flora and fauna uniquely adapted to their conditions. Unfortunately, historical conversions to agricultural land have resulted in the loss of approximately 85% of English saltmarsh over the past two centuries.

Saltmarsh Structure:

  1. Tidal/Mudflat: The lowest part of the saltmarsh, submerged except during low tide, and home to various marine life.
  2. Low Marsh: Frequently submerged by high tide, hosting wading birds, grasses, and more.
  3. Upper Marsh: Only submerged during very high tides, supporting diverse plant life and nesting migratory birds.
  4. Inland: The border of the saltmarsh, rarely submerged, providing protection against coastal flooding and hosting woodland, grasses, and wildlife.

In addition to their carbon storage role, saltmarshes act as a natural barrier against coastal flooding and erosion, offering invaluable protection to nearby communities. The remaining saltmarshes are estimated to provide over £1 billion in flood resilience benefits to UK homes. A 2019 report identified approximately 22,000 hectares of coastal land in the UK that could potentially be restored to saltmarsh, capturing more than 300,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually.

As the research progresses, Aviva and WWF are committed to identifying restoration sites that will yield benefits for climate, biodiversity, and coastal communities. This endeavor will contribute to the restoration of an ecosystem featuring iconic native species, including herons, egrets, otters, and various marine life such as crabs, mussels, clams, and diverse fish species. Moreover, it will support the breeding grounds of numerous migratory birds within the UK.

Claudine Blamey, Aviva Group Sustainability Director, said: “We are delighted to work with WWF to fund research that will make a genuine contribution to the wider understanding of how saltmarsh can help us move towards net zero.

“Saltmarsh is a precious habitat that removes significant volumes of carbon from the atmosphere as well as being home to a wide range of native and migratory species. It also delivers flood mitigation benefits for the communities based nearby, worth over £70 million for England and Wales, protecting more than 90,000 properties and more than £2 billion of assets”3.

Tom Brook, Blue Carbon Technical Officer at WWF, said: “Aviva and WWF are working together to demonstrate how the business sector can take leadership in moving toward a low-carbon future. Our work will enable sustainable investment in saltmarsh as a nature-based solution to tackling the climate emergency, with added benefits to coastal defence, biodiversity, and water quality.”

“Through this climate research, Aviva are also making an important contribution to achieving societal Net Zero ambitions. This project represents a significant step in addressing critical knowledge gaps in saltmarsh management, ensuring that blue carbon action is underpinned by robust science and research, driving positive outcomes for climate, nature and people.”



  1. State of the environment: the coastal and marine environment. Environment Agency. Chief Scientist’s Group report released January 2023.
  2. Saltmarsh Blue Carbon in UK and NW Europe – evidence synthesis for a UK Saltmarsh Carbon Code. Released March 2022.
  3. Saltmarsh flood mitigation in England and Wales, natural capital: 2022. Released 15 July 2022.

Media contacts:

Philippa Terry
Financial Communications
+44 (0)7385 537 458

Joe Booth
Financial Communications
+44 (0)7800 698 836

About WWF and Aviva partnership 

In 2021, WWF and Aviva have joined forces to call for a transformational shift in the UK financial sector to help slow climate change – a shift without which the UK will not be able to meet its net zero target. Together, WWF and Aviva are also working with communities in the UK and Canada to build more climate resilient ecosystems to help reduce the risk of climate-related natural disasters and create wider benefits for people. With this three-year partnership, Aviva is WWF’s lead partner in the insurance and pension sector. To find out more visit Aviva and WWF – Aviva plc.

About WWF 

WWF (Worldwide Fund for Nature) is one of the world’s largest independent conservation organisations, active in nearly 100 countries. Our supporters – more than five million of them – are helping us to restore nature and to tackle the main causes of nature’s decline, particularly the food system and climate change. We’re fighting to ensure a world with thriving habitats and species, and to change hearts and minds so it becomes unacceptable to overuse our planet’s resources.

Notes to editors:

  • We are one of the UK’s leading Insurance, Wealth & Retirement businesses and we operate in the UK, Ireland and Canada. We also have international investments in India and China.
  •  We help our 18.7 million customers make the most out of life, plan for the future, and have the confidence that if things go wrong we’ll be there to put it right.
  • We have been taking care of people for more than 325 years, in line with our purpose of being ‘with you today, for a better tomorrow’. In 2022, we paid £23.2 billion in claims and benefits to our customers.
  • Aviva is a market leader in sustainability. In 2021, we announced our ambition to become Net Zero by 2040, the first major insurance company in the world to do so. This plan means Net Zero carbon emissions from our investments by 2040; setting out a clear pathway to get there with a cut of 25% in the carbon intensity of our investments by 2025 and of 60% by 2030; and Net Zero carbon emissions from our own operations and supply chain by 2030. Find out more about our climate goals at and our sustainability ambition and action at
  • While we are working towards our sustainability ambitions, we acknowledge that we have relationships with businesses and existing assets that may be associated with significant emissions. More information can be found at
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