MCCIP annual report card launched: impacts of climate change on UK seas

Scientists at the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) have made a substantial scientific contribution to the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP)’s third Annual Report Card, which was launched on Thursday 15 July by UK environment ministers at the British-Irish Council meeting at Newcastle University’s Dove Marine Laboratory.

MCCIP is a partnership between scientists, government, its agencies, non-governmental organisations and industry. Its principle 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.

The 2010-2011 MCCIP annual report card involved around 100 scientists from 40 leading UK science organisations, including NOC. The report was independently reviewed by other experts in the field and covers 30 marine and coastal topics. It considers how UK Climate Projections (UKCP09) can help predict future marine climate change impacts, which is important for planning how best to adapt to climate change, and for the first time covers air-sea exchanges of carbon dioxide, deep-sea habitats, waterbirds and human health.

The chair of the MCCIP working group that produced the report, Dr Craig Wallace of NOC, said “Our aim has been to provide UK marine stakeholders with the very latest updates on how climate change is affecting our seas, both generally and in terms of regional impacts.”

NOC scientists who contributed to the report are Southampton-based Stuart Cunningham, Liz Kent, Penny Holliday, Simon Josey, Craig Wallace, David Berry, and Bob Marsh, and Liverpool-based Jason Holt, Kevin Horsburgh, J. Hughes, Jonathan Sharples and Judith Woolf. Bob Marsh is a member of the University of Southampton’s School of Ocean and Earth Science based at NOC’s Southampton site.

Foremost among the findings is that temperatures are generally increasing but with high variability between years. Apparently in response to increased sea temperatures, the distributions of some fish species have shifted northwards over recent decades, with coldwater species moving the furthest. At the same time, the total number of seabirds breeding in the UK has fallen significantly, with breeding success also declining. This may be related in part to range shifts in plankton species, which sit as the base of the marine food chain.

The report’s authors also warn that increasing sea temperatures may lead to outbreaks of harmful algae associated with Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning (PSP) events, and that it may damage other commercial activities. On a sunnier note, however, UK coastal tourism may grow, they say, although even that may put pressure on infrastructure.

“To date, the impacts of climate change have been seen mainly in southern UK waters, but future climate change is likely to affect all UK regional seas,” says Dr Wallace.

The 12-page summary report card can be accessed at

More information about the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership and UK Climate Projections (UKCP09):