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Report Card Shows Australia's Oceans are Changing

Lucy Towers
17 August 2012, at 1:00am

AUSTRALIA - The 2012 Marine Climate Change in Australia Report Card demonstrates that climate change is having significant impacts on Australias marine ecosystems.

The report card provides information about the current and predicted-future state of Australias marine climate and its impact on our marine biodiversity. The report card also outlines actions that are underway to help our marine ecosystems adapt to climate change.

"Australia has some of the worlds most unique marine ecosystems. They are enjoyed recreationally, generate considerable economic wealth through fisheries, aquaculture, and tourism, and provide irreplaceable services including coastal defence, oxygen production, nutrient recycling and climate regulation," Project leader CSIROs Dr Elvira Poloczanska said.

"Although there are some concerning findings in the 2012 report card, the information weve compiled is helping to ensure that ocean managers and policy makers are best placed to respond to the challenge of managing the impact that climate change is having on these systems."

Key findings show that warming sea temperatures are influencing the distribution of marine plants and animals, with species currently found in tropical and temperate waters likely to move south.

Some tropical fish species will also have a greater ability to acclimatise to rising water temperatures than previously thought.

Adaptation planning is happening now, from seasonal forecast for fisheries and aquaculture, to climate-proofing of breeding sites for turtles and seabirds.

Led by CSIRO, more than 80 Australian marine scientists from 34 universities and research organisations contributed to the 2012 report card. The report card draws on peer-reviewed research results from hundreds of scientists, demonstrating a high level of scientific consensus.

"Our knowledge of observed and likely impacts of climate change has greatly advanced since the first card in 2009," Dr Poloczanska said.

Aspects of marine climate which have been analysed include changes in sea temperature, sea level, the East Australian Current, the Leeuwin Current, and El Nio-Southern Oscillation.

Marine biodiversity assessed for the report card include impacts on coral reefs; tropical, temperate and pelagic fish; marine mammals; marine reptiles; seabirds; mangroves; tidal wetlands; seagrass; macroalgae; marine microbes; phytoplankton and zooplankton. The two new sections included in the 2012 report card focus on the smallest and largest organisms in the oceans: microbes and whales.

The project has been funded by the Australian Government Department of Climate Change and Energy Efficiency, through the National Climate Change Adaptation Research Facility's Marine Biodiversity and Resources Adaptation Research Network, the Fisheries Research and Development Corporation, and CSIROs Climate Adaptation National Research Flagship.

Further Reading

You can view the full report by clicking here.