Impacts of Climate Change on European Marine Environments

Gobal climate change will affect the physical, biological and biogeochemical characteristics of the oceans and coasts, modifying their ecological structure, their functions, and the goods and services they provide.
                                                                                                                                                    IPCC (2001)

Climate change is a serious global threat. Human activity increased the concentration of greenhouse gases, the major agent of climate change. These greenhouse gases affect the global climate by retaining heat in the troposphere, thus raising the average temperature of the planet and altering global atmospheric circulation and precipitation patterns.

Climate change influences the oceans and coasts in various ways: through changes in temperatures and sea level, ocean circulation, storminess and hence vertical mixing and wave regimes, all of which in turn can influence marine ecosystems and modify marine habitats. Changes occur on the level of nutrient availability, biological productivity, phenology (the timing of biological events such as spawning), population biogeography, migratory patterns, community structure, and predator-prey relationships from the bottom to the top of the food web. In addition, global change-induced effects such as ocean acidification, introduction of non-indigenous species result in more fragile marine ecosystems.

Europe is warming at a faster rate than the global average, and the physical attributes of our seas are changing accordingly, with implications for the functioning of our regional climate and our marine environment. The changes in the marine environment will have a profound impact on the daily life of Europe’s inhabitants, requiring forward planning in preparation for the changes.

Europe hosts many scientific experts who are researching the impacts of climate change on the marine environments. It is important to highlight their findings. Therefore a state-of-the-art overview of these EU research results is made.

Scroll through the menu and find out more about all relevant physical and biological changes to the seas, the associated socio-economic impacts and the regional differences.

This information is summarized in a Synthesis Report: "Research on the Effects of Climate Change on Marine environments", downloadable here as soon as available.



Arctic sea-ice cover is reducing

Sea surface temperature is increasing

Sea levels are rising

Storm frequency is increasing

Oceans are becoming more acid

Many marine species are moving to deeper and colder waters

Invasions of non-indigenous species are becoming more common

Jellyfish outbreaks are occurring more regularly

Fisheries are targeting new species and new fishing grounds

Corals are becoming increasingly threatened

Toxic microscopic algae are increasing in abundance