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The European Science Foundation has warned that climate change is already having a significant impact on marine life. Warmer seas and changing salinity levels are leading to unprecedented movements of species, threatening the stability of the marine ecosystem as a whole.

A new report predicts that the temperature of the northern European seas will increase at a faster rate than that of the more southerly oceans. The result willl be that species from the Atlantic are moving steadily northwards to Arctic seas, while even subtropical species will move into the more temperate Southern European seas.

Significantly, species from enclosed systems will be affected too; Mediterranean and Black Sea natives are likely to move beyond their traditional ranges.

As well as the changing temperatures, this kind of movement will be stimulated by a change in the salinity of some enclosed systems.

Increased river run-off, for example, will dilute and freshen the Baltic Sea to such an extent that its population will shift away from the marine and more towards the kind of life more typical of brackish, or even freshwater environments.

The researchers recommend that there should be a concerted effort to gather, store, and analyse all the extant information on the marine environment before a sustained monitoring programme is implemented, and well founded predictions can be made.

The full report Impact of climate change on European marine and coastal environment - Ecosystem approach" can be downloaded here. ®

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