UK seas set for climate change chaos

Climate change will cause widespread coastal disruption, threaten the future of many fish species and wreak havoc on the UK's marine environment, a new report has warned.

Increased sea surface temperatures will be a major factor in the disruption. By affecting the lifecycles of plankton, the foundation of the entire marine food chain, the breeding and feeding cycles of fish, and in turn sea birds and larger mammals will all be affected.

The North Sea, where plankton is reported to have already changed dramatically, is likely to be hit hardest. This will have direct impacts on cod stocks, in addition to the existing pressures from fisheries, the report says.

Additionally, increased major storm surges – temporary increases in sea level caused by atmospheric pressures and strong winds – will have destructive impacts on coastal areas as they become more frequent and could cause flooding and sea level rises.

“This heightens the urgency for government action to both significantly reduce the UK’s CO2 emissions and to bring forward a new Marine Bill, which will protect our marine wildlife and reform the way our seas are planned and managed to ensure they arte economically productive and sustainable for future generations,” said Andrew Lee, Director of Campaigns at WWF who published the report.

WWF has been campaigning for five years for the Marine Bill to deliver more integrated planning and management for maritime industries and to put the marine ecosystem at the heart of all future development decisions.

The group of scientists who contributed to the report also highlighted the rising ocean acidification (see related story) as a major concern as it is likely to have a major impact on corals and shell fish.

Larger marine animals such as harbour porpoises and fin whales are most likely to be affected by climate change through combined impacts of pollution and reduced food supply, threatening their breeding success.

The full report, Climate Change: Plunging our seas into deeper crisis, is available from the WWF website.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie