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Marine Climate Change

Volume 454: debated on Wednesday 13 December 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs what steps he is taking to improve scientific understanding of the effect of marine climate change; what research he has commissioned in this area; and if he will make a statement. (105081)

To improve scientific understanding, we have led the development of the Marine Climate Change Impact Partnership (MCCIP) to provide a UK-wide co-ordinating framework for the transfer of high-quality marine climate change impact evidence to policy advisors and decision-makers. The MCCIP will act as a focal point to investigate, inform, advise and encourage action, in order to adapt to the challenges and opportunities presented by the impacts of climate change in the marine environment.

The first MCCIP Annual Report Card (ARC) was launched in November. The ARC highlights the range of potential impacts in our seas. Many of these, and the connections between them, are poorly understood. We will use the ARC to help focus future research efforts of all MCCIP partners. Copies are available on the MCCIP website at and have been placed in the Libraries of the House.

DEFRA is also funding a project to look at the ‘connections’ that occur within a marine ecosystem. This project will make predictions of the effect of climate variability on the complex ecosystem connections and the consequences for the health of the sea.

Additionally, DEFRA funds the Marine Environmental Change Network (MECN) which co-ordinates and supports those collecting long-term time series information for marine waters. Long-term data series are important in understanding how much of the change we have seen in the marine environment is due to climate variability, other human pressures or natural fluctuations. One of these time series is the Continuous Plankton Recorder, run by the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (, which has collected plankton in the Atlantic, North Sea and Eastern Pacific since 1931.

DEFRA and the Department for Trade and Industry are funding research on the impact of increasing carbon dioxide on the marine environment and the consequent ocean acidification. At present, we have little evidence of changes that have occurred, or are occurring, in UK waters. Therefore, we intend to develop a pilot marine monitoring programme for measuring carbon dioxide in our shelf seas as well as taking further ecosystem-based measurements in conjunction with the Natural Environment Research Council under their Oceans 2025 initiative.