How does Climate Change directly impact on marine ecosystems?
There is no denying that climate changes have profound impacts on the world and especially on the marine environment. Recent research has shown that the Northern Hemisphere has been warmer since 1980 than at any other time during the last two millenniums. As a result the increase in temperature under climate change was generally higher in northern than in southern European seas.
The latest European Science Foundation-Marine Board study report, “Impact of climate change on European marine and coastal environment - Ecosystem approach” shows how even moderate climate scenarios have caused marked consequences on the European marine environment.
The study has detailed the impact of climate change at a European Seas level – in the Arctic, the Barents Sea, the Nordic Seas, the Baltic, the North Sea, the Northeast Atlantic, in the Celtic-Biscay Shelf, the Iberia upwelling margin, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea.
Take the northern Arctic and Barents Seas for example the decline in sea ice cover there has triggered the most obvious temperature-related changes for marine life. The open systems structure of these seas has demonstrated how climate changes are causing further northward movement of marine organisms – Atlantic species are beginning to inhabit the more northern seas, the traditional preserve of Arctic species, and subtropical species are moving into southern waters where previously mainly temperate species existed.
In addition, the increased river runoff and subsequent freshening of the Baltic Sea have also led to shifts from marine to more brackish and even freshwater species while the temperature-induced loss of native species from enclosed systems, such as the Mediterranean and Black Sea, will enhance the introduction of non-native organisms, according to the study-report which is led by Dr. Katja Philippart from the Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research.
After taking in all of the recorded impacts on the European Seas for consideration, the ESF-Marine working group has identified other possible future challenges in terms of climate change monitoring, modelling, indicators and research and development. It has made several recommendations based on these challenges.
1. A concerted effort to gather, store and analyse previously and presently collected marine environmental data (e.g. common open access database and annual Pan-European reporting based on national contributions);
2. Identifying the nature and rate of consequences of climate change in European marine and coastal waters; this will require the maintainance of sustained monitoring efforts and use of new technologies to increase their spatial and temporal resolution;
3. Predicting the consequences of climate change for our marine environment; this will require the development and measurement of parameters.
4. Predicting the response and feedback of marine environments and ecosystems to climate change which would require the improvement of regional climate models and the development of biophysical models;
5. Predicting the impact on climate change on the distribution of marine organisms and on marine food webs; this will require the inclusion of knowledge on species’ physiology, bioenergetics and behaviour in biophysical and ecosystem models.
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