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In hot water

Last modified: 18 February 2013

Anemone bed in Lamlash Bay

Image: COAST (Community of Arran Seabed Trust)

In a comparative study of sea temperature changes, recorded over 20 years around Rathlin, Skerries and Strangford Lough, researchers from National Museums Northern Ireland and Department of Environment’s Marine Division reveal results that could have profound implications for our local marine life. Northern Ireland is a particularly important area to study the effects of temperature change as it is at the interface of a biogeographic boundary between the cold Arctic waters from the north and the warmer waters coming up from the south. The relatively shallow nature of our waters is also a significant factor.

The report highlighted that rises in water temperatures is a causal factor in the contraction and disappearance of some species. It was found that there were significant increases in the population of warmer water species living at the extreme northern edge of their range.

The report showed that the strongest warming between 1982 and 2007 occurred since 1994, with the warmest years being 2005, 2006 and 2007.

Richard Devlin, a spokesperson for the NIMTF commented on the findings, saying “It is really important that reports such as these are carried out, providing us with locally relevant information on climate change. Northern Ireland is in such an important geographic location for measuring the effects of climate change, and sowe welcome this study. However, the results highlight the policy gaps in Northern Ireland that are stopping us from dealing with the effect of climate change in our seas. At the moment the most significant legislative tool in our marine arsenal, the Marine Bill for NI, is being considered around the Executive table. We have been calling on politicians to amend the Bill to actively respond to the reality of climate change. This would involve considering how species will adapt to climate change when designating special Marine Conservation Zones (MCZs) and how certain areas can act as carbon “sinks”, where carbon can be naturally stored in healthy ecosystems without damaging the wider climate. However, without the Bill progressing, we are not even able to start the process of protecting our seas.

“This report should act as a wake-up call, highlighting the  absolute need to do all we can to protect our most vulnerable marine species and habitats.  without locally robust marine and climate legislation, these features could be lost forever from our seabeds”.

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