Climate change already affecting UK's marine life

A A A

Britain's coasts are already being affected by climate change, according to a panel of experts convened by the Government to assess the likely impact of global warming. These changes are altering the number, variety and distributions of every kind of marine organism, from plankton and fish to top predators such as seabirds.

Sea temperatures have increased, storms and waves are becoming more damaging and sea levels are beginning to rise faster than at any time in the previous century, the report says.

"We are observing large changes in our marine environment that are driven in part by climate change and that are predicted to continue into the future," according to the panel's report published today.

"Mitigating and adapting to these changes will present significant challenges for decision-makers," says the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership, a coalition of experts from institutions ranging from Cambridge University to the Met Office's Hadley Centre.

Sea surface temperatures around Britain's coastline have been rising by between 0.2C and 0.6C per decade for the past 30 years and there is every sign that they will continue to rise, especially in the South-east.

Over the past 50 years, severe winds have become more commonplace and the height of waves has increased by about 2 per cent per year in the western and northern parts of British territorial waters, the report says.

Global sea levels rose by between 1mm and 2mm per year during the past century, with an acceleration to 3mm per year between 1993 and 2003.

"During the 21st century it is likely that global average sea level will rise by between 9cm [3.5in] and 88cm relative to 1990 but it will not be uniform around the world," the report says.

"The anticipated range of relative sea-level rise by the 2080s (relative to the 1961-1990 mean) is 20 to 80cm in south-west England and 0 to 60 cm in Scotland," it says.

Oceans around the world are becoming more acid as a result of the increased concentration of carbon dioxide being absorbed at the sea surface. Computer models suggest that the increased acidity of British coastal waters will surpass the maximum acidity of existing levels.

"The full impacts of acidification remain largely unknown but organisms such as corals, some plankton, shellfish and sea urchins are expected to become less able to produce calcareous parts, such as shells, by the middle of the century," the report says.

Climate change is already beginning to affect the variety and distribution of marine species - although it is not the only factor affecting coastal wildlife.

"Cold-water species of plankton, fish and intertidal invertebrates are retreating northwards around the UK and the ranges of southern species are expanding," the report says.

"Fishing pressure remains the principal cause of changes in the abundance of most fish species, but climate has probably also played a role in some cases.

"For example, the decline of prey species (particularly sandeels) has resulted in low breeding success of kittiwakes and other seabirds," the report says. "Warm-water commercial species such as sea bass, red mullet and tuna are becoming more commonplace in our seas."

Ian Pearson, the Climate Change minister, said that the findings underlined the fact that global warming is the biggest environmental threat the world faces.

"Our seas play a vital role in shaping and regulating our climate and have a tremendous bearing on our future wellbeing," Mr Pearson said. "Rising sea temperatures, ocean acidification and melting polar ice are not just predictions, they are happening now," he said.

The species affected

Plankton

Warmer-water plankton has moved further north by 600 miles, with a similar retreat of cold- water plankton.

Fish

Warm-water species such as tuna, stingrays and triggerfish have increased in the waters of southern Britain. Cold-water species have retracted north in some regions, such as the North Sea.

Marine Mammals

Experts suggest that they are no more vulnerable than other wildlife, but as top predators they will be affected by changes in the distribution of fish.

Seabirds

Climate change has been linked with the poor breeding success, reduced survival and population decline of the kittiwake. Warmer winters have probably affected its main source of food, sandeels. Sea-level rise may affect breeding sites for shoreline-nesting species such as terns.

Intertidal Species

Southern, warm water species on rocky shores have increased in abundance and range as temperatures have risen. The purple acorn barnacle, for example, has extended its range by 100 miles, while cold-water species such as the tortoiseshell limpet have decreased in numbers. Some new species are likely to become established, displacing existing organisms.

Sport
Raheem Sterling and Luis Suarez celebrate during Liverpool's game with Norwich
sport Another hurdle is out of the way for Brendan Rodgers' side
Arts & Entertainment
The original design with Charles' face clearly visible, which is on display around the capital
arts + ents The ad shows Prince Charles attired for his coronation in a crown and fur mantle with his mouth covered by a criss-cross of white duct tape
Sport
Steven Gerrard had to be talked into adopting a deeper role by his manager, Brendan Rodgers
sport LIVEFollow the latest news and scores from today's Premier League as Liverpool make a blistering start against Norwich
News
People White House officials refuse to make comment on 275,000 signatures that want Justin Bieber's US visa revoked
VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
News
Sir Cliff Richard is to release his hundredth album at age 72
PEOPLESir Cliff Richard has used a candid appearance on an Australian talk show to address long-running speculation about his sexuality

Sport
Mourinho lost his temper as well as the match
sportLiverpool handed title boost as Sunderland smash manager’s 77-game home league run
News
The speeding train nearly hit this US politican during a lecture on rail safety
news As the saying goes, you have to practice what you preach
Sport
Mercedes Formula One driver Lewis Hamilton of Britain (front) drives ahead of Red Bull Formula One driver Daniel Ricciardo of Australia during the Chinese F1 Grand Prix at the Shanghai International circuit
sport Hamilton captured his third straight Formula One race with ease on Sunday, leading from start to finish to win the Chinese Grand Prix

Arts & Entertainment
Billie Jean King, who won the women’s Wimbledon title in 1967, when the first colour pictures were broadcast
tv
News
Snow has no plans to step back or reduce his workload
mediaIt's 25 years since Jon Snow first presented Channel 4 News, and his drive shows no sign of diminishing
Life & Style
food + drinkWhat’s not to like?
Voices
Clock off: France has had a 35‑hour working week since 1999
voicesThere's no truth to a law banning work emails after 6pm, but that didn’t stop media hysteria
Arts & Entertainment
Maisie Williams of Game of Thrones now
tvMajor roles that grow with their child actors are helping them to steal the show on TV
Arts & Entertainment
Kingdom Tower
architecture
Life & Style
Lana Del Rey, Alexa Chung and Cara Delevingne each carry their signature bag
fashionMulberry's decision to go for the super-rich backfired dramatically
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit