UK. Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership report warns of effects throughout our seas

Wednesday, 29 November 2006

A report highlighting just how far climate change has already impacted the United Kingdom's marine environment, and what might happen in the future, is to be published today.

Rapidly following-on from the publication of the Stern Report, which documented the economic case for tackling climate change, the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) has produced a new 'Annual Report Card' (ARC) focusing on the marine environment.

The report card strongly suggests that marine climate change will have important consequences for all elements of our marine environment, with significant impacts on the biological diversity, cleanliness and safety, and commercial productivity of our seas.

Speaking on behalf of the Government and Devolved Administrations, Climate Change Minister, Ian Pearson, said: "Climate change is the biggest environmental issue the world faces, on land and at sea. Our seas play a vital role in shaping and regulating our climate and have a tremendous bearing on our future wellbeing.

"Rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification and melting polar ice are not just predictions, they are happening now.

"This Report Card contains some disturbing facts, showing that climate change is already having a noticeable impact on marine species from plankton to seabirds.

"There is a lot we still do not understand about the impact climate change will have on our oceans, but the Report Card gives us at a glance the latest scientific knowledge which will improve our understanding and our capacity to act."

The Annual Report Card concludes that:

we are observing large changes in our marine environment that are driven in part by climate change. These changes are altering the amount, variety and distributions of marine species at all levels of the marine ecosystem, from plankton through to fish and top predators such as seabirds.

in particular, increasing sea surface temperature is having a major impact on marine ecosystems, with an apparent northwards shift of some 1000km of warm-water plankton (with a similar retreat of cold-water species) and an increased abundance of warm water species of fish being observed in our seas.

interactions between different parts of the marine ecosystem are complicated and exactly how the whole system ties together and responds to change is as yet not well understood.

The partnership which produced this report includes a wide range of stakeholders, including academics, government, and non-government organisations.

Editors note:

Detailed briefings on all the topics covered in the report card can be found on the MCCIP website

The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) was launched in March 2005 by government and the devolved administrations as part of a response to Charting Progress: An Integrated Assessment of the State of UK Seas

The Partners, many of which fund the partnership, are:
Centre for the Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science
Countryside Council for Wales
Climate Research Unit - University of East Anglia
Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs
Department for Trade and Industry
Department of Environment Northern Ireland
Environment Agency
Joint Nature Conservation Committee
Marine Environmental Change Network
Natural England
Natural Environment Research Council
Royal Society for the Protection of Birds
Scottish Environment Protection Agency
Scottish Executive
Scottish Natural Heritage
Sir Alastair Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science
States of Guernsey
States of Jersey
The Crown Estate

UK Climate Impacts Programme
Welsh Assembly Government

The general level of scientific understanding on marine climate change impacts is currently low, with large knowledge gaps plainly evident. Even in such areas as pollution monitoring, where data have been collected for a long time, the monitoring methods used are not designed to detect the impacts of climate change. For many commercially important activities, such as the operation of ports, shipping and the farming of fish, there is a notable lack of scientific understanding with regards to how climate change will impact upon these industries.

Last Updated ( Wednesday, 29 November 2006 )