Climate change impacts on marine fish and shellfish around the UK and Ireland

Heath, Michael and Neat, Francis C and Pinnegar, John K and Reid, David G and Sims, David W and Wright, Peter J (2012) Climate change impacts on marine fish and shellfish around the UK and Ireland. Aquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems, 22 (3). pp. 337-367. ISSN 1052-7613 (

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Recent and projected future changes in the temperature and chemistry of marine waters around the UK and Ireland are having, and will in the future have, effects on the phenology, productivity and distribution of marine fish and shellfish. However, the overall consequences are still hard to predict because behaviour, genetic adaptation, habitat dependency and the impacts of fishing on species, result in complex species' responses that may be only partially explained by simple climate envelope predictions. There is a broad body of evidence that climatic fluctuations are playing an important role in changing fish distributions and abundances, which is discernible against the background of trends in abundance due to fishing. During warm periods, southern species have tended to become more prominent and northern species less abundant. However, the changes in distribution are often more complicated than might be expected from a simple climate envelope approach, partly due to ocean circulation patterns which create invasion routes for southern water species into the North Sea from the south and from the north via the continental shelf west of Britain and Ireland. The eventual population-scale impacts of ocean acidification on fish and shellfish are currently very difficult to predict. However, the scant evidence suggests that indirect food web effects arising from the enhanced sensitivity of calcifying planktonic organisms may be important, and the direct effect on fish sensory systems leading to subtle influences on behaviour with possible population-level implications are possible. In British waters, the lesser sandeel (Ammodytes marinus) is identified as being at particular risk from climate change. Owing to its strict association with coarse sandy sediments it is unable to adapt its distribution to compensate for warming sea temperatures. Sandeels are a key link in the food web, linking primary and zooplankton production to top predators. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.