Pembrokeshire coast Pic Daniel Hauck

The Pembrokeshire coast  Picture: Daniel Hauck

The varied and far-reaching current and expected future impacts of climate change on the UK’s marine environment are highlighted in a new scientific review.

The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) has produced its latest ‘Report Card 2020’, a comprehensive, updated review on the range and scale of physical, ecological and societal impacts of climate change on UK coasts and seas. Its findings are based on a wealth of research collated by scientists from several organisations including the UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (UKCEH).

MCCIP, a partnership between scientists, government agencies, NGOs and industry, says its Report Card 2020 will provide the evidence to inform decisions on the future of our seas. The findings include:

  • There is clear evidence that warming seas, reduced oxygen, ocean acidification and sea-level rise are already affecting UK coasts and seas, with impacts on plankton, fish, birds and mammals
  • Coastal flooding is likely to get worse, due to the combined effects of higher sea level rises than previously thought and more extreme rainfall
  • Fisheries productivity in some UK waters has been negatively impacted by ocean warming and historical overexploitation, emphasising the need for sustainable management of stocks that accounts for climate change impacts
  • Impacts of climate change have already been observed at a range of coastal heritage sites due to increased erosion, flooding, weathering or decay.

This report collates important new evidence which highlights how climate change has already affected UK coasts and seas, and the ways it will continue to do so in the coming decades. This information is crucial to not only help develop adaptation measures and management actions to support vulnerable marine life and habitats, but also to help UK industries and society prepare for and adapt to these far-reaching marine climate impacts.

Coastline west of Caernarfon  Pic Daniel Hauck
Coastline west of Caernarfon   Picture: Daniel Hauck

Some 150 scientists were involved in producing the Report Card 2020 including Annette Burden, Professor Laurence Jones and Angus Garbutt of UKCEH, who contributed to a review of the current scientific understanding of the impacts of climate change on coastal habitats around the UK. Another UKCEH scientist, Dr Francis Daunt, contributed to the seabirds section of the Report Card. 

Miss Burden says: “Coastal habitats are at risk from both the direct impacts of climate change, such as alterations in temperature and rainfall, as well as indirect impacts, which include sea-level rise and coastal erosion.

“For example, sea level rise means deeper waters and bigger waves reaching saltmarsh, dunes, shingle and maritime cliffs, eroding the seaward edge. This causes the loss of these coastal habitats and the range of benefits they provide, such as a natural defence against the sea as well as the capture and storage of carbon.

“Many fixed coastal defences are becoming economically unsustainable, highlighting the need to recreate more natural shorelines where possible to reduce the immediate impacts of climate change.

“Land previously reclaimed from the sea could be allowed to reflood, rather than continuing to invest in costly defences there. Other management options include adding sediment to coastal habitats in order to restore them and thereby counter flooding and erosion.”

The MCCIP’s review confirms findings in a report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that climate change is having significant consequences on marine environments globally.

The full report card is available at http://www.mccip.org.uk/impacts-report-cards/full-report-cards/2020

 

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