Between 1971 and 2010, the oceans have absorbed approximately 93% of the excess heat caused by global warming, leading to several major changes such as the increase in stratification, limitation in the circulation of nutrients from deep waters to the surface, and sea level rise. In addition, the oceans absorbed 26% of anthropogenic CO2 emitted since the start of the Industrial Revolution, which resulted in ocean acidification. Together, these processes strongly affect marine and coastal species’ geographic distribution, abundance, migration patterns and phenology. As a consequence of these complex environmental changes, marine and coastal human sectors (i.e., fisheries, aquaculture, coastal tourism and health) are in turn at risk. This report provides an updated synthesis of what the science tells us about such a risk, based upon IPCC AR5 (2013- 2014) and published scientific articles and grey literature that have been published between July 2013 and April 2015.


Although uncertainty remains strong, there is growing scientific evidence that ocean warming and acidification will affect key resources for societies through ecosystems services. For example, while AR5 indicated that coral reefs had little scope for adaptation, recent research has suggested that there may be some capacity for some coral species to recover from climatic hocks and bleaching events, and to acquire heat resistance through acclimatization. This will have huge implications on many coastal economies in the developing and developed countries. More generally, key sectors will be affected. For example, while the fish catch potential is expected to decrease at the global scale, it will show diversified trends at the regional scale as fish stocks have started shifting in latitudes or by depth. This will impact regional to local fisheries systems. Also, climate and acidification-related impacts to existing aquaculture are expected to be generally negative, with impacts varying by location, species, and aquaculture method. Such foresights however do not consider the potential for adaptation, which aims precisely to limit the impacts of changes in environmental conditions.

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