Impacts of climate change on shallow and shelf subtidal habitats
Silvana N.R. Birchenough, Julie Bremner, Peter Henderson, Hilmar Hinz, Stuart Jenkins d, Nova Mieszkowska, J. Murray Roberts, Nicholas Kamenos and Shaun Plenty
Birchenough, S.N.R., Bremner, J., Henderson, P., Hinz, H., Jenkins, S., Mieszkowska, N., Roberts, J.M., Kamenos, N.A., and Plenty, S. (2013) Impacts of climate change on shallow and shelf subtidal habitats, MCCIP Science Review 2013, 193-203, doi:10.14465/2013.arc20.193-203
Download full report:
There is evidence that climatic processes influence species abundance and community composition in soft-sediment habitats in the North Sea. There is no obvious signal of warming-effects in southern and south-westerly sediments, although changes to the species dominating crustacean assemblages in the Bristol Channel and the occurrence of previously undocumented species in the western Channel (e.g. the brittle star Amphiura incana and the shrimp Athanas nitescens) suggest some degree of climate-influence.
Hard-substrate habitats in southern and south-westerly waters appear to be affected, with changes in algal distribution and abundance and the appearance and increased occurrence of a previously unrecorded warm-water barnacle all linked to increased seawater temperatures.
Climate change is likely to impact the benthos in future. The changes documented in soft-sediment communities are expected to continue, and probably escalate, in response to the cumulative effects of seawater warming and ocean acidification. Species forming cold-water coral reefs and maerl beds may experience shifts in distribution as a result of intolerance to altered seawater temperature and chemistry, with knock-on effects on community composition and function.
Future impacts on these habitats are likely to have socio-economic ramifications, as cold-water coral reefs and maerl beds are protected under European legislation and soft-sediment communities are an important food resource for commercial fish.
There are knowledge-gaps in a number of areas. We are currently unable to fully assess the scale of benthic species and community responses in relation to climate change, understand how climate interacts with other marine stressors or model future species distributions for many benthic species. An appropriate benthic monitoring programme, coupled with continued involvement in international initiatives, is essential for characterising climate impacts on UK benthos.