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Marine Science



Climate change threat to Scottish marine biodiversity and more must be done to address the impacts, says a new report published by Scottish Environment LINK and WWF Scotland.

The report, ‘Scotland’s Nature on Red Alert’, says that between 1985 and 2009, sea temperatures were found to have increased by 0.4oC in the coastal waters to the south east and south west of Scotland and by 0.3oC in the waters around the north of Scotland. There are indications that ocean acidity is rising too.

On the marine environment, the report states that climate change will result in shifts in whale and dolphin populations, with some moving to colder waters further north and warmer water species moving in.

For shellfish, it says: “Ocean acidification impacts on the ability of mollusc species to form their characteristic shells. This effect has been studied in many species globally and a combined analysis of multiple studies found that the likely future levels of ocean acidification could reduce calcification (the process by which these species build shells) in molluscs by 40%. This has the potential to be detrimental not just to naturally occurring mollusc species, but also for commercial users of molluscs, such as the oyster and mussel farming industries.”

The report adds: “The marine environment also has an important role to play in our efforts to mitigate climate change. Recent research has estimated that significant amounts of carbon are captured and stored in the Scottish marine environment74. It is therefore important that these habitats are protected and enhanced in the future, to avoid any human impacts reducing their carbon storage capacity.”

The report concludes: “Scotland’s Biodiversity Intactness Index shows that our biodiversity is no longer in a condition to meet society’s needs. Other legislation which seeks to protect biodiversity in Scotland will require review and enhancement to reverse that decline. Climate change is yet another pressure which is already starting to impact on our biodiversity.

“As the case studies in this report show, climate change will accelerate the already rapid rate of decline of our biodiversity, resulting in the loss of species and a disruption to the ecosystem services on which we depend. Immediate and substantial action is clearly required to prevent catastrophic damage on both a global and Scottish scale. Rapid reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the achievement of net zero emissions as soon as possible will give Scotland an opportunity to both protect our own wildlife and demonstrate world leadership in climate change mitigation.”