Resolving Climate Impacts on shelf and CoastaL sea Ecosystems (ReCICLE)

Lead Research Organisation: National Oceanography Centre
Department Name: Science and Technology

Abstract

Shelf and coastal seas provide vital services for society, notably food, from fish, and climate regulation, through their role in drawing down and storing atmospheric CO2. The ecosystems of these seas are vulnerable to global climate change, arising from greenhouse gas emissions. Being able to provide reliable future projections of the impacts of climate change on these regions is therefore vital for our knowledge of how these services may be impacted. The overall purpose of the proposed work is to identify and quantify the potential future response to climate change of the simple plant life (phytoplankton) forming the base of the food chain of the shelf sea ecosystems and to assess the likely range of this response. To deliver this we use a state of the art coupled hydrodynamic-ecosystem model at an exceptionally fine resolution. This is driven by the output of global climate models, which along with aspects of the ecosystem model structure, are selected so as to span the potential response of the system to climate change, and provide a range of views of the future. Statistical methods are then used to characterise this response in terms of timeseries and changes in areas of similar properties (the biogeography), how clearly the climate signal can be detected and how this signal propagates through the food web.

We focus on six key indicators of ecosystem response on the Northwest European Continental shelf (termed intermediate services): primary production (plant growth), oxygen uptake, nutrient transport, uptake and recycling, biological control (how energy and material is transferred between different levels in the food web), and the habitat of the water column. The impact of climate change (through changes in the atmosphere, open ocean and terrestrial forcing) on the physical and chemical processes will affect these key indicators in different ways. Examples include: modification of the shelf sea nutrient distribution by changes in oceanic mixing, changes to the timing and magnitude of spring phytoplankton blooms due to changes in wind mixing and light levels, and changes to sea water temperature directly affecting growth rates. The physical processes active in the regions of these seas where primary production is highest are generally of finer scale than many model systems can accommodate, examples include extra mixing generated by steep and variable topography, plumes of nutrient and sediment rich river water, and fronts between well mixed and seasonally stratified waters.
The potential effects of climate change on the finescale processes is largely unknown, but may radically change our view of the overall impact of climate change in these seas. Alongside the details of the physics, the complexity of the ecosystem must also be accounted for. There a several feedbacks at the base of the food web, which control how chemical energy cycles through the system. If different elements of this cycle, e.g. grazing by zooplankton and nutrient recycling by bacteria, respond to change in different ways then the overall effect may be amplified or suppressed. This amplification or suppression determines how vulnerable the overlying services (e.g. fish production) are to climate change, and hence the potential societal implications.

To address these issues we propose a tightly integrated programme of model experiment design, simulation, evaluation and analysis, organised in four work packages: Experiment design and uncertainty, Model validation using observational analysis, Analysis of ecosystem response, Model products. Together this will produce an unprecedented view of potential climate impacts on marine ecosystems, including the effects of fine-scale physical processes, non-linear ecosystem interactions and an assessment of the range of likely impacts. We will condense this information into a set of model products that are readily accessible by scientists of other disciplines and wider stakeholders.

Planned Impact

The project offers benefits for three different groups: Policy makers, including: UK government departments: particularly DEFRA and DECC, but potentially also DFID and MOD; UK governmental agencies such as CEFAS, MMO, Marine Scotland, AFBI, EA and Met Office, Intergovernmental bodies: ICES, EEA, OSPAR, and IPCC. Industry, including: Living Marine Resources: fisheries and aquaculture; mineral extraction: oil and gas; Insurance; off shore; renewable energy; maritime operations and transport. General public
How they will benifit:

Science into Policy:
The project will provide the first clear view of potential impacts of climate change on the lower trophic level ecosystem of the Northwest European shelf seas at a local to regional scale that includes estimates of uncertainty and confidence, and as such will be an important resource for informing future policy development, to adapt to and build resilience against this change. The two most relevant policy aspects, from a UK perspective, are the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP). The MSFD requires EC member states to develop strategies to achieve a healthy marine environment and make ecosystems more resilient to climate change in all European marine waters by 2020 at the latest. This work will directly inform the resilience aspect and how these issues are likely to evolve 30 years beyond the MSFD target period. This is particular relevant to how characteristics, targets and indicators may change for the following high level descriptors of good environmental status: 1 Biodiversity; 4 Foodwebs; 5, Eutrophication; and 7 Hydrography. The CFP has committed itself to implement an ecosystem approach to fisheries management thereby aligning itself with the Integrated Maritime Policy and ensuring the sustainable provision of goods and services from living aquatic resources. This work provides important underpinning evidence as to what might constitute 'sustainable', which could, with added value from Fisheries scientists, be translated into realistic targets of Maximum sustainable Yield (as specified in the on-going CFP reform). The work also has the potential to help marine spatial planning for habitat identification and the definition of marine protected areas, and whether these have long-term resilience.
While the work here focuses on Northern European waters, the model tools are widely applicable to shelf seas around the world. The methodological aspect of this work potentially benefits other regions looking to perform similar model experiments and assessments in their shelf and coastal seas. This is especially relevant for less developed counties where benefits for food security and poverty alleviation issues are more substantial that in Northern European Seas.
The 'physics only' simulations provide a resource for other policy relevant issues, notably coastal defence and naval operations.

Wealth Creation:
There is a growing demand for rigorously assessed information about potential future climate states, apparent in the emerging 'Climate Services' sector. This work could feed information into this industry with a wide range of beneficiaries. The ecosystem focus of this work particularly lends its impact to the fisheries and aquaculture sectors, while the hydrodynamic simulation has direct relevance for the oil (maritime operations) and gas (pipe line efficiency) sectors. The near coastal nature of this work has potential relevance, with further work on sea level impacts, to the insurance industry interested in coastal flood risk. The specific benefits of this work would be the fine scale of the information and the treatment of uncertainty and confidence.

Media Relations and Public Engagement: There is considerable public interest in climate change effects in the marine environment and several groups could potentially benefit from this work through education, general interest and careers inspiration.

Publications

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Related Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Award Value
NE/M003477/1 31/03/2015 31/10/2019 £341,994
NE/M003477/2 Transfer NE/M003477/1 01/11/2019 30/09/2020 £13,637
 
Description Increases in oceanic stratification can decouple boundary currents from topography, and so modeify their ocean-shelf exchnage. This is a hitherto unappreciated impact of climate change in the regional marine environment.

The oceanic link between North Atlantic and Arctic climate change and the hydrodynamics and ecosystems of the North west European continental shelf has been demonstrated for the first time.
Exploitation Route Further studies on marien climate impacts in european and around the world

Inform future climate impact projections for government policy and marine management stakeholders
Sectors Aerospace, Defence and Marine,Agriculture, Food and Drink,Energy,Environment,Leisure Activities, including Sports, Recreation and Tourism,Government, Democracy and Justice,Transport

URL https://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1029/2018GL078878
 
Description Following discussions with the Met Office and Environment Agency this project could contribute to the next Defra UK Climate Projection. This work has supplied iput to a Partlimetry Office of Science and technology breifing document on the impacts of climate change on UK fisheries.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Agriculture, Food and Drink,Environment
Impact Types Economic,Policy & public services

 
Description NOC and Met Office Collaboration 
Organisation Meteorological Office UK
Country United Kingdom 
Sector Academic/University 
PI Contribution Under the Joint Weather and Climate Research Programme (JWCRP) between NERC and the Met Office, we have forged a strong strategic partnership with the Met Office. This takes the form of the Joint Marine Modelling Project (JMMP; formerly JOMP; the Joint Ocean Modelling Programme and JCOMP; the Joint Coastal Ocean Modelling Programme). JMMP comprises staff from both NOC (from the Marine Systems Modelling group) and the Met Office and enables the best possible versions of the NEMO global and coastal-ocean models to be taken up into predictive systems at the Met Office (for ocean forecasting, coupled weather forecasting, seasonal prediction, decadal prediction, and climate and earth system modelling). Successive versions of NEMO are developed internationally on a regular cycle and have a number of new options. The benefit of these options are assessed both individually and in various combinations through undertaking decadal timescale simulations on MONSooN, a supercomputer facility shared between NERC and the Met Office, and identical in architecture to the main Met Office supercomputer. Once the optimal combination of options has been ascertained, the NEMO model can then be rapidly and easily taken up into the predictive systems at the Met Office. The cycle is repeated approximately every 1-2 years. The shelf seas activities, specifically support the models run operationally in the shelf sea forecasting and reanalysis system at the Met Office and delivered by the European Copernicus Marine Environmental Monitoring Service. Alongside JMMP, the National Partnership for Ocean Prediction (formally known as the National Centre for Ocean Forecasting) aims to develop and promote the application of world-leading marine products and services to stakeholders, with a focus on national and public benefit. This is achieved firstly through the integration of models, observations and scientific understanding to produce the best information and advice about the marine environment, with rigorous quality assurance and traceability; and secondly through engaging with stakeholders to understand their requirements and to maximise the beneficial use of marine products and services.
Collaborator Contribution Under the Joint Weather and Climate Research Programme (JWCRP) between NERC and the Met Office, we have forged a strong strategic partnership with the Met Office. This takes the form of the Joint Marine Modelling Project (JMMP; formerly JOMP; the Joint Ocean Modelling Programme and JCOMP; the Joint Coastal Ocean Modelling Programme). JMMP comprises staff from both NOC (from the Marine Systems Modelling group) and the Met Office and enables the best possible versions of the NEMO global and coastal-ocean models to be taken up into predictive systems at the Met Office (for ocean forecasting, coupled weather forecasting, seasonal prediction, decadal prediction, and climate and earth system modelling). Successive versions of NEMO are developed internationally on a regular cycle and have a number of new options. The benefit of these options are assessed both individually and in various combinations through undertaking decadal timescale simulations on MONSooN, a supercomputer facility shared between NERC and the Met Office, and identical in architecture to the main Met Office supercomputer. Once the optimal combination of options has been ascertained, the NEMO model can then be rapidly and easily taken up into the predictive systems at the Met Office. The cycle is repeated approximately every 1-2 years. The shelf seas activities, specifically support the models run operationally in the shelf sea forecasting and reanalysis system at the Met Office and delivered by the European Copernicus Marine Environmental Monitoring Service. Alongside JMMP, the National Partnership for Ocean Prediction (formally known as the National Centre for Ocean Forecasting) aims to develop and promote the application of world-leading marine products and services to stakeholders, with a focus on national and public benefit. This is achieved firstly through the integration of models, observations and scientific understanding to produce the best information and advice about the marine environment, with rigorous quality assurance and traceability; and secondly through engaging with stakeholders to understand their requirements and to maximise the beneficial use of marine products and services.
Impact NEMO model configurations. NW European Shelf Operational Copernicus service.
Start Year 2008