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Marine impacts

Growing human pressures, especially climate change, are having profound and diverse costs for marine ecosystems.

Growing human pressures, especially climate change, are having profound and diverse costs for marine ecosystems.

The rising level of atmospheric carbon dioxide (CO2) is one of the most critical problems facing the planet, as its effects are global and irreversible on ecological timescales.

Increasing ocean temperatures and greater ocean acidity are the main direct consequences of climate change on the marine environment.

Rising ocean temperatures result in further changes, like:

  • rising sea levels
  • greater ocean stratification
  • less polar sea ice
  • altered patterns of ocean circulation, precipitation and freshwater input

Ocean acidification occurs when the extra CO2 in the atmosphere dissolves in seawater. This effect has only been noticed recently, but its implications may be as great as global warming.

Rates of change have been rapid in recent decades – so much so that many organisms may be unable to adapt. Physical and chemical change in marine ecosystems will almost certainly continue to speed up over the coming decades.

Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership

The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) offers a framework in the UK for sharing high quality evidence on marine climate change impacts with policy advisers and decision-makers. Guidance on adaptation and related advice is also shared.

Scottish Natural Heritage helps to review scientific evidence to ensure that it is useful to those who must base decisions upon it.

A key output of MCCIP is its Annual Report Cards, which give information about:

  • the current state of scientific understanding of marine climate change in our oceans and seas
  • observed changes and what could happen in the future
  • hard facts versus interpretation

European Project on OCean Acidification

Climate change is diffuse and difficult to track, but ocean acidification is measurable, predictable and progressive.

SNH was involved the European Project on OCean Acidification (EPOCA).

Now complete, EPOCA recorded:

  • changes in ocean chemistry and geographical distribution of marine organisms
  • the impact of ocean acidification on marine organisms and ecosystems
  • ocean acidification risks, uncertainties and ‘tipping points’, and the pathways of CO2 emissions required to avoid these thresholds

OCean Acidification: The Facts is a user-friendly guide published by EPOCA.

Find out more

Coast and seas