Where headline messages under each topic are
new for 2010-2011, they are highlighted in bold text. Arrows show
change in confidence since the 2007-2008 MCCIP Annual Report Card.
Where a topic is referred to in the 'regional snapshot' map, a map
| ||WHAT IS ALREADY HAPPENING||WHAT COULD HAPPEN|
SAHFOS; Strathclyde University
- In the North Sea, the population of the previously dominant and
important cold-water zooplankton species Calanus
finmarchicus has declined in biomass by 70% since the
- There has been a northward shift in the distribution of many
plankton species by more than 10º latitude over the past 50
- The seasonal timing of plankton production has altered with
some species appearing up to four to six weeks earlier than 20
years ago, which is having an effect on predators.
- The effects of an abrupt ecosystem shift in the late
1990s were most pronounced in regions of the north-eastern Atlantic
near the 9-10°C sea surface temperature isotherm, a critical
thermal boundary between 'warm' and 'cold' water ecosystems. As
waters warm this boundary has moved northwards.
- Future warming is likely to alter the geographical distribution
of phytoplankton and zooplankton, affecting ecosystem services such
as oxygen production, carbon sequestration and biogeochemical
Cefas; Strathclyde Univsersity
- Some fish distributions have moved northwards over the
past 30 years by between 50 to 400km, with coldwater species such
as monkfish and snake blenny moving the furthest. At the same time,
some have moved into deeper waters at an average rate of about 3.5
metres per decade.
- Warmer temperatures around the UK are correlated with
poor conditions for survival of cod larvae and cod growth, but
enhanced growth rates in sole (a warm-water
- Diadromous species (which spend some of their life in
both fresh and marine waters) such as salmon and eel have been
shown to be particularly vulnerable to climate change (water
temperature and river flow) with impacts on both the freshwater and
- By 2050, climate change may lead to pelagic species
(such as herring and anchovy) moving northward by an average of
600km and demersal species (such as cod and haddock) by
- Changes to currents may have an impact on the dispersal
of fish eggs and larvae. It is anticipated that winter and early
spring spawners (such as cod and plaice) will experience poor
larval survival, whereas warmer-water species (such as sprat) may
- Between 2000 and 2008, the total number of seabirds
breeding in the UK decreased by approximately 9%. Breeding success
also declined. Climate change is partly responsible.
- Major changes in plankton abundance in the North Sea
have contributed to the reduction in quality and abundance of prey
species such as sandeels.
- The greatest reductions in breeding success of species
most sensitive to food shortages, such as Arctic skua, black-legged
kittiwake and shag are seen in the Northern North Sea and Scottish
- Models predict that by 2100, UK climate will no longer
be suitable for great skua and Arctic skua. The same models predict
that the geographic range of black guillemot, common gull and
Arctic tern will shrink so that only Shetland and the most
northerly tips of mainland Scotland will hold breeding
- Any increased storminess would reduce the amount of safe
breeding habitat for shoreline-nesting species (e.g. terns) and
create unfavourable foraging conditions at sea, which may lead to
starvation of adults and chicks of some species.
SWF; SMRU; University of Aberdeen
- Evidence of impacts from climate change are difficult to
distinguish from the impacts of human activities such as those that
cause prey depletion, incidental capture in fishing gear, pollution
- In the temperate zone, some species of toothed whales
and dolphins are showing shifts in distribution, which may be
linked to increasing sea temperatures.
- The most likely impacts will be from changes in prey
distribution and abundance.
- Species that have relatively narrow habitat
requirements are the most likely to be affected (e.g. shelf sea
species like harbour porpoise, white-beaked dolphin and minke
- Reduced plankton availability may directly affect some
baleen whale species that feed at least in part upon
- Increased coastal flood risk could affect seal haul-out
and breeding sites in low-lying areas and caves.
- Overwintering wader distributions have shown an
eastward and northward shift. In recent years numbers of some
species have declined as birds have overwintered further east in
Europe as conditions have improved there.
- Overwintering wildfowl are showing similar distribution
- Waders and wildfowl may be more susceptible to
intermittent severe weather events in the
- Changes in the Arctic and sub-Arctic are expected to
lead to reduced availability of suitable breeding grounds and
increased predation pressure.
Queen's University, Belfast; Marine Scotland; MBA
- The distribution and reproductive capabilities of many
non-native marine species have been limited by water
- The introduced Pacific oyster (Crassostrea
gigas) spread from oyster farms in the early 1990s, becoming
established in southern England. Similarly new self-sustaining
populations are now established in Northern Ireland with
recruitment occurring in favourable years.
- Rising water temperatures may have contributed to the
expansion in range of a number of species such as the bryozoan
Bugula neritina, previously restricted to warm water areas
such as power station outlets, and the red seaweed Caulacanthus
ustulatus which was introduced from Asia and spread rapidly to
Devon in 2004, Cornwall in 2005 and Kent in 2009.
- Changes in ocean physics and chemistry could favour some
non-native species over native species.
- Current sea temperature projections are thought likely
to result in certain species such as Crassostrea gigas
recruiting every year in Northern Ireland, Wales and south-west
England by 2040.
NE; CCW; National Coastal Consultants; SNH
- Coastal habitats are being affected by changes to the
amount of sediment being supplied and removed as a result of
natural processes and human intervention.
- Past human intervention and modification of coastal
habitats means they have a reduced capacity to adapt naturally to
climate change impacts.
- Continued sea-level rise, and other climate change
related factors are expected to have an impact on the extent,
distribution and quality of various coastal habitats.
- Biodiversity is increasing in southern areas as warm water
species extend their distributions faster than cold water species
- Changes in geographic distributions of rocky shore
species have continued with the range limits of southern species
moving up to 12km further north (e.g. Osilinus species)
between surveys undertaken in July 2007 and July
- Population abundances of the topshell Gibbula
umbilicalis have increased throughout the UK and in warmer
southern areas they have switched to having two periods of gonad
maturation per year. This was observed for the first time in
2008/2009. Such a strategy is more characteristic of populations
inhabiting warm waters and lower latitudes.
- The further development of hard coastal defences to tackle
sealevel rise could provide 'stepping stones', enabling some rocky
shore species to further expand their range.
- More information is required to quantify the impacts of
climate change on seagrass beds, mudflats, and other soft sediment
Shallow and Shelf Subtidal Habitats
Cefas; Oxford University; MBA; University of Wales, Bangor
- We lack information on ecosystem dynamics over the
range of shallow and shelf subtidal habitats, which hinders our
ability to identify and understand large-scale climate change
- There is no obvious signal of warming effects in
sediments in southern and south-western areas where changes would
be most expected. However, changes in crustacean abundance in some
locations and the occurrence of previously undocumented species in
others (e.g. brittle star Amphiura incana and shrimp
Athanas nitescens) suggest some degree of
- Increased seawater temperatures have been linked with
disease outbreaks in seafans, changes in algae distribution and
abundance, and the appearance and increased occurrence of a
previously unrecorded warm-water barnacle Solidobalanus
fallax in southern and south-western areas.
- Changes already documented in soft-sediment communities
are expected to continue, and probably escalate, in response to the
cumulative effects of seawater warming and ocean
- Cold-water coral species and maerl may experience
shifts in distribution as a result of intolerance to raised
seawater temperature and altered chemistry, with knock-on effects
on community composition and function.
- A detailed assessment of climate change impacts on
deep-sea ecosystems is difficult due to the scarcity of sustained
observations. Climate driven changes in surface waters could
already be having a direct impact through the quantity of food
being delivered to the sea bed in any given year.
- Predicting future changes is extremely difficult due to
lack of baseline data and appropriate models at this