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.

Arts and Entertainment
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
Sport
The giant banner displayed by Legia Warsaw supporters last night
football Polish side was ejected from Champions League
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
News
Angelina Jolie with her father Jon Voight
peopleAsked whether he was upset not to be invited, he responded by saying he was busy with the Emmy Awards
News
Bill Kerr has died aged 92
peopleBill Kerr appeared in Hancock’s Half Hour and later worked alongside Spike Milligan and Peter Sellers
News
news It's not just the world that's a mess at the moment...
Sport
footballPremiership preview: All the talking points ahead of this weekend's matches
News
Keira Knightley poses topless for a special September The Photographer's issue of Interview Magazine, out now
people
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
News
i100
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
Life and Style
tech
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

C# Algo-Developer (BDD/TDD, ASP.NET, JavaScript, RX)

£45000 - £69999 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: C# Algo-Develo...

Senior Data Scientist (Data Mining, Apache Mahout, Python,R,AI)

£60000 - £70000 per annum + Benefits + Bonus: Harrington Starr: Senior Data Sc...

Data Scientist (SQL,Data mining, data modelling, PHD, AI)

£50000 - £80000 per annum + benefits+bonus+package: Harrington Starr: Data Sci...

Java Developer - 1 year contract

£350 - £400 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Cent...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone