Marine Enhancement

What is Marine Enhancement?

Marine and coastal ecosystems deliver a range of benefits to society through the ecosystem services that they provide. However, in some places biodiversity has been lost and with it, the structure and function of these natural resources compromised. Marine enhancement activities have the potential to increase biodiversity and bring back natural systems if done well.

NatureScot has a role in providing information and advice to support marine enhancement projects as well as a responsibility to ensure that projects are carried out according to best practice with full consideration of Scotland’s marine environment. Our advice is based on the best evidence available at the time and considers policy and legislative requirements.

We work with Marine Scotland and Marine Scotland Licencing Operations Team to ensure that activities are carried out responsibly.   


The words ‘restoration’, ‘recovery’, ‘regeneration’ and ‘habitat creation’ are used in different settings and for different reasons, but the term ‘marine enhancement’ can be considered an umbrella term for “actions that aim to improve the quality, size or geographic distribution of a habitat”. In general, the priority is to protect species and habitats where they currently exist and to remove pressures to allow natural recovery where a feature has been lost or damaged before active restoration is considered.

Drivers for marine enhancement include:

  • Biodiversity conservation and enhancement
  • Redressing damage and other degradation to habitats
  • Environment quality improvement
  • Ecosystem function and services
  • Climate change issues
  • Coastal and marine management
  • Recreating lost habitats
  • Creating habitats in new areas
  • Invasive non-native species impacts on populations
  • Marine development

To read more about these terms and definitions see our Marine Habitat Enhancement, Recovery, Restoration and Creation: Terminology and Examples document.

Marine and coastal enhancement framework

NatureScot have developed a framework for marine and coastal enhancement projects, which will be available early in 2022. This project has been led by GoBe in collaboration with Heriot-Watt University, Swansea University and UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH). The aim of this project is to guide those planning an enhancement project through the process, advising on the types of information required by NatureScot, other regulators and funding bodies, as well as what approaches are most likely to lead to success. Through provision and use of a consistent framework, this then allows NatureScot to provide advice in a timely manner, ensure consistency between different projects, support site suitability assessments and in doing so improve the chances of project success.

NatureScot collaborate with community groups, academics and industry to support these projects and help fill the knowledge gaps to ensure that activities take place where appropriate and in a responsible way. Enhancement projects should assess the risks and benefits of all activities and have clear objectives. Anyone thinking of starting an enhancement project should get in contact with NatureScot at an early stage for advice and contact Marine Scotland Licencing Operations Team for information on regulatory procedures.

Although marine enhancement techniques are in the early stages of development, there are some projects taking off in Scottish waters and along our coasts. For example, oyster restoration has been going on for a number of years and now multiple projects exist around Scotland. A seagrass restoration project has started on the west coast with support from the NatureScot Biodiversity Challenge Fund.


NatureScot have also developed a Scottish seagrass restoration handbook together with Marine Scotland, Marine Scotland Science, Marine Scotland Licencing and Project Seagrass. This is available as a NatureScot research report 'Seagrass Restoration in Scotland - Handbook and guidance'.

Native oysters

The European Native Oyster Habitat Restoration Handbook provides general information on native oyster restoration procedures and considerations. Marine Scotland have developed guidance for projects in Scottish waters.

For further information

Contact [email protected]

Find out more

Read our latest news release - Scotland's first seagrass restoration guide


Marine Planning

Community-Led Marine Biodiversity Monitoring Handbook

Marine Habitats

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