Scotland’s Marine Habitats and Species Affected by Climate Change

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Written By: Emma Websdale

Scientists have warned that global warming could reduce commercial fish catches around Scotland by 20%.

1519941066According to the Marine Climate Change Impact Partnerships report card for 2013, gradually rising temperatures caused by climate change and pollution are making the seas more acidic –a biochemical change that could push away Scotland’s fish, whales, dolphins and porpoises.

The 2013 report card summarizes the latest research from 55 UK science organizations including the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage and Marine Scotland. It warns about the major impacts that climate change will have on Scotland’s marine habitats and species both now and in the future.

Impacts associated with climate change include a recorded 50% loss in numbers of coldwater fish species found along the northeast Atlantic, including species such as haddock, cod and whiting. Meanwhile, climate projections suggest that continued fish migrations northwards could reduce commercial fish catches in Scotland by up to 20%.

With the ocean growing more acidic as temperatures rise, the report says that the number of white-beaked dolphins, harbor porpoises and minke whales may also decline around the east and north of Scotland.

“This is a worrying report and confirms that major changes are coming for Scotland’s marine environment, with water temperatures and acidity both rising, and important fish stocks and wildlife on the move”, says WWF Scotland director Lang Banks. “It would be a great pity if all the good work being done to increase fish stocks was to be undone by climate change.”

A study published in October also listed the possible effects of the increasing levels of human-induced greenhouse gases on the ocean. Warning that greenhouse gas emissions could cascade biogeochemical changes to marine habitats and organisms, scientists estimated that ocean warming could cause shortfalls in ocean productivity, consequently leaving over 870 million people affected.