List of key challenges and emerging issues

Full list of key challenges and emerging issues identified in the 2020 MCCIP report card review papers

With over 150 scientists contributing to 26 topic review papers for the 2020 MCCIP report card, the information provided represents a community view on UK marine and coastal climate change impacts. There were 108 key challenges and emerging issues identified across the 26 topic review papers.

The full list of key challenges and emerging issues are summarised here for end-user communities to access (e.g. for supporting scientific proposals or to inform UK and devolved marine and climate change reporting requirements), ordered by the themes and topics used in the 2020 report card. For each topic, a link is provided to the relevant peer-reviewed backing paper, containing a more detailed description of the key challenges and emerging issues listed.   

This information provides the basis for the challenge area narratives and responses and guiding principles

Climate of the Marine Environment
Temperature
  • Conduct further research on the near-shore experience of marine heat wave conditions, and how these events could affect industry, society and ecosystems 
  • Improve understanding of the ocean scale influence on shelf-sea temperatures, including the causes and effects of change in the North Atlantic subpolar gyre 
  • Produce more accurate Sea Surface Temperature predictions (monthly-seasonal; sub-decadal) and near future decadal and multi-decadal projections 

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Salinity
  • Develop key metrics describing salinity change for use in assessments, supported by analysis (e.g. ODaT) and reanalysis (e.g. Copernicus) tools 
  • Build knowledge on the ocean-shelf exchange processes that drive multiannual variability and long-term trends in the shelf seas 
  • Utilise more data from sustained observations to identify multi-decadal salinity changes 

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Dissolved Oxygen
  • Identify when and where dissolved oxygen changes are being affected by human stressors (e.g. ocean warming or nutrient enrichment) rather than just natural variability
  • Establish long-term datasets (outside the North Sea) to record the occurrence, frequency and spatial extent of oxygen deficiency in UK coastal and shelf waters
  • Improve the resolution of dissolved oxygen data to provide more confidence in testing coastal and shelf sea models 
  • Reduce model uncertainty in the individual and coupled processes that control dissolved oxygen dynamics (especially coastal and shelf sediments) 
  • Establish long-term time–series data to test coupled physical-ecosystem models, and variability in functioning between sites with different conditions 

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Ocean Acidification
  • Develop accurate and stable autonomous observing technologies for pH and related variables, deploying them in difficult-to-sample regions, and linking and analysing their measurements effectively with other data streams 
  • Improve the spatial and temporal resolution of models, along with their descriptions of bio-geochemical processes, to capture the relatively small-scale controls on the marine carbonate system in complex coastal and shelf sea environments 
  • Sustain time–series observations of the marine carbonate system at key point sites and transects, and improve high resolution monitoring of the near-coastal marine environment 

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Stratification
  • Increase coastal observing data to assess stratification trends 
  • Address model limitations in simulating shelf edge processes and salinity 
  • Address model limitations in simulating river inflows and intermittent thermal stratification near the coast 
  • Conduct more research into the key role stratification strength and duration plays in bottom water dissolved oxygen concentration 
  • Address the fact that shelf sea biology and physics are very sensitive to water mixing across the pycnocline, but this mixing is poorly resolved in models 
  • Explore the role of rainfall and horizontal changes in salinity across the shelf sea in triggering spring stratification (and implications for model predictions of stratification)
  • Improve modelling of regional changes in rainfall and winds over this century, and their impacts on stratification  

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Arctic Sea Ice
  • Assess risks associated with Arctic Shipping (e.g. increased radiative forcing from non CO2 sources; contaminant spills; waves / floes / icing spray damage to ships)
  • Assess climate change impacts on coastal erosion and permafrost decay (e.g. increased erosion releasing organic carbon to nearshore environments and rapid permafrost thawing affecting the discharge of carbon)
  • Identify potential impacts from changes in sea ice and the ocean on Arctic marine ecosystem services (e.g fisheries / industries / beneficial use for indigenous people)

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Sea Level
  • Quantify and constrain high-end scenarios through a better understanding of dynamic ice processes (and their controlling factors) 
  • Translate updated sea-level science into resilience planning (e.g. to ensure Shoreline Management Plans are realistic and sustainable in economic, social and environmental terms)
  • Understand how the storm track (position, strength) and storm surges will change, with coupling CMIP6 models to storm surge and wave models as a priority 

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Storms and Waves
  • Improve the simulation of storms in climate models 
  • Improve understanding of the role climate feedbacks play in Arctic sea-ice retreat and consequences for storms and wave height  
  • Improve understanding of how North Atlantic storms and blocks respond to external forcing 

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Coastal Geomorphology
  • Enhance monitoring and modelling of extreme storm response and recovery to identify tipping points (e.g. at wave dominated barrier coasts) 
  • Develop understanding of bio-physical interactions for model input, to include, for example extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) and vegetation effects on hydrological and sediment dynamics 
  • Develop models that predict long-term and large-scale coastal system response to sea-level rise (and that include management measures) 

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation (AMOC)
  • Resolve model bias issues to improve decadal projections and identify the transition from multi-decadal variability to long term decline 
  • Improve understanding of how individual processes (e.g. wind driven circulation, deep water formation) and the links between them affect Atlantic gyres, and the potential effects of climate change 
  • Determine whether the ongoing AMOC decline is part of a multidecadal cycle or part of a long-term decline due to climate change. Crucial to understanding this issue is sustaining the direct observations of the AMOC 

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Healthy and Biologically Diverse Marine Ecosystems
Intertidal Habitats
  • Improve detection of climate driven changes to soft sediment benthic biodiversity by expanding monitoring sites 
  • Sustain time-series that are tracking climate-driven changes in intertidal biodiversity 
  • Provide more reliable information and scientific data to support implementation of marine biodiversity legislation 

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Coastal Habitats
  • Develop a multidisciplinary catchment-to-coast approach to understand the role of climate change in transferring carbon from land to sea 
  • Account for coastal habitats in national greenhouse gas inventories, and adopt a true multidisciplinary catchment-to-coast approach to determine their relative importance within the global carbon cycle 
  • Create more natural shorelines to help restore the natural function of coastal processes and increase resilience, and promote cultural acceptance of the dynamic nature of these habitats 
  • Conduct more research on the potential social impacts of climate change on the UK coast, which are wide ranging and include health, well-being and livelihoods 
  • Enhance collaboration between environmental economists and coastal and marine scientists to provide robust natural capital valuations for coastal habitats 
  • Integrate nature-based approaches into coastal management so ecosystems can self-regulate in response to climate change

Read the peer reviewed paper here 

Shallow and Shelf Habitats
  • Improve predictions of extreme events, and the disproportionate effects they have on species range / abundance / local extinctions, to support cross-cutting decision making 
  • Identify potential impacts from changes in 'engineering' taxa on ecosystems and the goods and services they provide 
  • Establish baseline data for species and habitats to separate effects from different stressors 
  • Improve monitoring to better characterise year-to-year population variability 
  • Take difficult cross sectoral decisions to manage seas and increase resilience to multiple stressors 

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Deep Sea Habitats
  • Build knowledge of the physical environment influencing UK deep-sea communities, including hydrography and Particulate Organic Carbon (POC) flux, as well as collecting time-series data on community change 
  • Build knowledge of deep-sea biological communities and ecosystem functioning which is still lacking for large areas of the UK deep-sea, including pelagic 
  • Develop more regional, rather than ocean-scale, predictions to understand how UK deep-sea habitats will respond to future climate change. Models must consider impacts of multiple stressors on both benthic and pelagic habitats 

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Plankton
  • Identify vulnerable and resilient species and habitats, and separate climate impacts from other human stressors (e.g. nutrients) 
  • Better understand mechanistic links between climate warming, plankton and fisheries (and other higher trophic levels such as seabirds) to develop a predictive capacity 
  • Identify risks and potential opportunities from new species colonisations, including new pathogens and Harmful Algal Blooms
  • Better understand the rate of genetic adaptation to climate change impacts 
  • Evaluate risks from warming temperatures and acidification on native marine organisms 
  • Further investigate the processes involved in the plankton drawdown of atmospheric CO2 (biological pump) and  implications of climate change regarding its role in sequestering and storing carbon 

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Fish
  • Assess the vulnerability of fisheries to changing storminess to inform adaptation action 
  • Develop more robust projections of climate change impacts on productivity and distribution at a species level, through better integration of data on life trait characteristics 
  • Identify climate sensitive life cycle 'bottlenecks' (e.g. shallow nursery areas) to reduce pressure on struggling stocks 
  • Distinguish the contribution of climate drivers to changes in fish distribution, productivity and size from other drivers
  • Better parameterise models through more validation and empirical studies, including habitat dependency, physiology and population dynamics 

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Waterbirds
  • Consider the potential role of climate related disruptions in Arctic predator-prey dynamics, such as lemming cycles, in reduling breeding success for species wintering in the UK
  • Expand existing monitoring efforts to address current knowledge gaps on temperate non-breeding abundance, productivity and survival 
  • Better understand potential relationships between anthropogenic pressures and assess their likely interactions with future climate change
  • Enhance demographic and environmental monitoring for input to population models that identify drivers of waterbird populations and distributions 
  • Address the challenge of monitoring non-breeding seasons, as distributions shift north and east of areas currently well-covered by volunteer-based schemes in Europe 

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Seabirds
  • Consider how landing obligations to halt the discard of fish from vessels will remove an important food source for seabird species, compounding climate change impacts
  • Test whether climate change (e.g. temperature, extreme weather) can cause selection and rapid ‘evolutionary rescue’, enabling seabird populations to adapt to climate change
  • Explore interactions between climate change and anthropogenic drivers affecting seabirds, such as fisheries, pollutants, disease and marine renewables 
  • Increase data collection on the effects of climate change on principal prey species of seabirds 
  • Understand cumulative impacts of climate change and environmental pollution on seabirds (e.g. legacy and emerging contaminants and plastics) 
  • Understand how policy driven expansions in marine renewables may impact seabirds through collision and displacement

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Marine Mammals
  • Establish long term monitoring of distribution and abundance change for cetacean species to assess impacts of climate change 
  • Distinguish climate effects from other drivers in recent observed changes in seal populations 
  • Quantify the synergistic effects of climate change and other human stressors on cetacean range shifts
  • Understand how direct impacts on lower trophic levels affect top predators through improved links to upper trophic levels in ecosystem models 

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Impacts on society
Coastal Flooding
  • Identify barriers to 'managed realignment' and 'no active intervention' in Shoreline Management Plans e.g. for historic landfill sites at the coast that have to be protected 
  • Identify how to plan our future shoreline on the open coast and along estuaries and deliver practical portfolios of adaptation options for our future shoreline that are technically feasible, balance costs and benefits, can attract appropriate finance, and are socially acceptable 
  • Calculate annual coastal damages and event losses to inform national threat level 
  • Identify trends, and consequent impacts, from past storm events, and determine likely impacts from future changes in wave and surge climate 

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Cultural Heritage
  • Gain 'acceptance' of managing loss of heritage assets due to climate change, and the need for more robust systems of valuing and prioritising assets for action 
  • Develop long-term datasets to identify climate change impacts on cultural heritage assets (e.g. ocean acidification on ship decay; erosion rates) 
  • Quantify the impact of multiple climate threats (storms, surge, flooding, wind driven rain) which cumulatively cause major damage to cultural heritage assets 

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Harmful Species
  • Improve regional salinity and temperature data to help to support modelling of the location and timing of risks to human health from marine pathogens 
  • Development of HAB models, for both short term (one to two week) forecasts and under future climate scenarios, to inform industry responses 
  • Improve understanding of how climatic factors affect the fate and behaviour of Norovirus in the marine environment, to facilitate the development of predictive models for human health protection 
  • Determine the potential role of climate change in recent discoveries of the potent neurotoxin Tetrodotoxin (TTX) in European bivalves, which present a new threat to shellfish food safety  
  • Measure actual human exposure and incidence of illness from Harmful Algal Blook-related toxins, Vibrios, Norovirus and Tetrodotoxin (TTX) and improve research into societal impacts

Read the peer reviewed paper here 

Transport and Infrastructure
  • Establish how climate change affects infrastructure performance, deterioration and threshold failure, supported by long-term monitoring 
  • Improve confidence regarding how climate change will impact on weather parameters, notably wind and wave regimes, that determine infrastructure risk profiles 
  • Improve understanding of correlated flood risks (such as events affecting large sections of the coast, clustered in time or from multiple sources, i.e. coastal and riverine) to transport and infrastructure

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Tourism and Recreation
  • Understand how UK tourism businesses currently manage for, and respond to climate change. Are there important spatial or sectoral variations, and how does climate change feature in appetites for risk?
  • Explore how place-based ‘product mixes’, destination types, or the nature of coastal and/or marine environments could be variously affected by climate change 
  • Assess how projected climate change impacts on tourism and recreation sectors may affect their value (either beneficial or adverse, direct or indirect) 
  • Develop forecasting capabilities for climate change impacts on tourism, identifying the full range of potential physical and social impacts and their interactions (potentially compounding one another) 
  • Produce risk assessments across scales that connect the local (i.e. destination) level to transboundary impacts 

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Aquaculture
  • Identify the effects of climate change and ocean acidification on pathogens and disease development, and complex disease outcome 
  • Identify the potential effects of climate change and ocean acidification on sustainable growth of offshore aquaculture 
  • Assess the capacity of aquaculture species at individual and population level to adapt to climate change and ocean acidification 
  • Understand the synergistic effects of climate change and ocean acidification (and the effect of fluctuating, compared to continuous, exposure to these impacts) on settlement (shellfish), growth and survival of aquaculture species 
  • Identify the potential impacts of climate change on environmental conditions at aquaculture sites e.g. the assimilative capacity of receiving water bodies, including offshore 
  • Identify what impacts of climate change that could favour the establishment and spread of non-native species at sites 

Read the peer reviewed paper here

Fisheries
  • Evaluate climate change impacts on the benefits derived from recreational fishing (e.g. to coastal economies and wellbeing of participants) 
  • Apply more climate change research to species of conservation importance (e.g flapper skate, basking shark) to inform conservation measures 
  • Understand potential barriers to sector and fleet adaptation to climate change (e.g. market failures, information and policy barriers, inc. quotas and discards) 

Read the peer reviewed paper here