31/08/2005

Climate change to cause chaos in NI seas

Climate change could wreak havoc on the UK and Irish marine environment, according to a warning in a WWF report.

'Climate change: Plunging our Seas into Deeper Crisis' claims that an increase in sea surface temperature will be a major factor in further disrupting the breeding, feeding and growing cycles of fish, affecting sea birds and mammal populations.

Changes in the distribution, seasonality and growth, of plankton, which is the foundation of the marine food chain, as has already been observed in the North Sea, will have direct negative impacts on many species including cod, in addition to the existing pressures from fisheries, according to the report.

Malachy Campbell, Policy Officer at WWF Northern Ireland, said: "Our seas are already under severe pressure from a number of activities such as fishing, oil and gas exploration and coastal development.

"This report shows that climate change has the power to deepen this crisis, disrupting and changing the entire ecosystem."

The new report also found that major storm surges - temporary increases in sea level caused by atmospheric pressures and strong winds - will have destructive impacts on coastal areas as they increase in frequency.

Storm surges could cause flooding events in low-lying coastal areas around the Northern Ireland coast such as Belfast and Londonderry.

Sea level rise is also likely to reduce the available coastal habitats of sea birds through erosion and damage to nesting sites. Sandeels, a major food source for birds and fish, which breed in shallow sand banks, may also be adversely affected.

(MB/SP)

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