Climate change will affect how we protect the marine environment

The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) launched its latest Report Card today at the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS) annual science conference in Glasgow. It focuses on how climate change could affect the implementation of marine biodiversity legislation – and in particular legislation used to establish marine protected areas. 

Key findings in the 2015 MCCIP Report Card include

  • Climate change is rarely explicitly considered in marine biodiversity legislation, but mechanisms generally exist that could enable climate change issues to be addressed.
  • The potential impacts of climate change on marine protected areas include species being gained to or lost from sites and, in certain cases, the entire network. 
  • Flexibility is required in responding to climate change impacts on marine protected areas so options such as designating new sites, abandoning old sites and revising management measures may all need to be considered.
  • With over 1,250 designated features (species and habitats) in the UK marine protected area network, identifying where and how these habitats and species are likely to be affected by climate change will be a critical step in managing marine protected areas.
  • At the current stage of development for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, further practical consideration of how climate change could affect targets for the achievement of Good Environmental Status is required.

Chair of the MCCIP Report Card Working Group, Dr Matthew Frost, said: “This first major review of the implementation of marine biodiversity legislation in the UK in the light of climate change was a significant undertaking for MCCIP but one that we think is particularly timely. Our report shows that despite some potential challenges for implementation and a need for some further detailed analyses, much of the legislation does contain mechanisms that allow changes occurring as a result of climate drivers to be taken into account. We hope this work will be useful to all those with responsibility for implementing or developing legislation.”

UK Minister for the Marine Environment, George Eustice, said: “We are committed to improving our natural environment and delivering on our manifesto commitment to create and conserve the UK’s Blue Belt. The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership’s (MCCIP) valuable work is helping us to understand the potential impacts of climate change on our waters and the implications for marine life and habitats. Monitoring and gathering evidence is crucial to help us address climate change issues.”

Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment, Richard Lochhead, said: “I welcome today’s report from the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) – who are playing a vital role in helping us understand the impact of climate change on marine biodiversity. The findings will be useful as we seek to manage marine protected areas in the face of a marine climate that is slowly changing.

“The Scottish Government is already taking action on legislating for the impact of climate change to our marine environment through the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and our recently adopted National Marine Plan. The report shows the value of working together to protect the marine environment and provide significant and robust scientific data which will help inform future policies to protect our marine environment.

Notes

For further findings of the MCCIP Special Topic Report Card 2015 please visit the website www.mccip.org.uk/mbl or contact the MCCIP Secretariat through office@mccip.org.uk

The 2015 MCCIP report card on ‘Marine Climate Change Impacts: Implications for the implementation of marine biodiversity legislation’ was launched on 30th September at the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS) annual science conference in Glasgow. The chair of the MCCIP report card working group, Dr. Matt Frost (MBA), Beth Stoker (JNCC) and Philip Stamp (Defra) all addressed the launch. 

The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) was launched in March 2005 and is a partnership between scientists, government, its agencies, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and industry. The principal aim is to provide a co-ordinating framework for the UK, so as to be able to transfer high quality evidence on marine climate change impacts, and guidance on adaptation and related advice, to policy advisors and decision-makers