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It is not possible to assess whether past climate change has already affected water- and food-borne diseases in Europe, but the sensitivity of pathogens to climate factors suggest that climate change could be having effects on these diseases.
The number of vibriosis infections, which can be life-threatening, has increased substantially in Baltic Sea states since 1980. This increase has been linked to observed increases in sea surface temperature, which has improved environmental conditions for Vibrio species blooms in marine waters. The unprecedented number of vibriosis infections in 2014 has been attributed to the unprecedented 2014 heat wave in the Baltic region.
Increased temperatures could increase the risk of salmonellosis.
The risk of campylobacteriosis and cryptosporidiosis could increase in those regions where precipitation or extreme flooding is projected to increase.
Climate change can have an impact on food safety hazards throughout the food chain.
Global mean sea level has risen by 19.5 cm from 1901 to 2015, at an average rate of 1.7 mm/year, but with significant decadal variation. The rate of sea level rise since 1993, when satellite measurements have been available, has been higher, at around 3 mm/year. Global mean sea level in 2015 was the highest yearly average over the record and ~70 mm higher than in 1993.
Evidence for a predominant role of anthropogenic climate change in the observed global mean sea level rise and for an acceleration during recent decades has strengthened since the publication of the IPCC AR5.
Most coastal regions in Europe have experienced an increase in absolute sea level and in sea level relative to land, but there is significant regional variation.
Extreme high coastal water levels have increased at most locations along the European coastline. This increase appears to be predominantly due to increases in mean local sea level rather than to changes in storm activity.
Global mean sea level rise during the 21st century will very likely occur at a higher rate than during the period 1971–2010. Process-based models considered in the IPCC AR5 project a rise in sea level over the 21st century that is likely in the range of 0.26–0.54 m for a low emissions scenario (RCP2.6) and 0.45–0.81 m for a high emissions scenario (RCP8.5). However, several recent studies suggest substantially higher values. Several national assessments, expert assessments and recent model-based studies have suggested an upper bound for 21st century global mean sea level rise in the range of 1.5–2.0 m.
Available process-based models project that global mean sea level rise by 2300 will be less than 1 m for greenhouse gas concentrations that peak and decline and do not exceed 500 ppm CO 2 -equivalent, but will be in the range of 1 m to more than 3 m for concentrations above 700 ppm CO 2 -equivalent. However, these models are likely to systematically underestimate the sea level contribution from Antarctica, and some recent studies suggest substantially higher rates of sea level rise in the coming centuries.
The rise in sea level relative to land along most European coasts is projected to be similar to the global average, with the exception of the northern Baltic Sea and the northern Atlantic Coast, which are experiencing considerable land rise as a consequence of post-glacial rebound.
Projected increases in extreme high coastal water levels are likely to mostly be the result of increases in local relative mean sea level in most locations. However, recent studies suggest that increases in the meteorologically driven surge component can also play a substantial role, in particular along the northern European coastline.
All European seas have warmed considerably since 1870, and the warming has been particularly rapid since the late 1970s. The multi-decadal rate of sea surface temperature rise during the satellite era (since 1979) has been between 0.21 °C per decade in the North Atlantic and 0.40 °C per decade in the Baltic Sea.
Globally averaged sea surface temperature is projected to continue to increase, although more slowly than atmospheric temperature.
Dissolved oxygen in sea water affects the metabolism of species. Therefore, reductions in oxygen content (i.e. hypoxic or anoxic areas) can lead to changes in the distribution of species, including so called ‘dead zones’.
Globally, oxygen-depleted areas have expanded very rapidly in recent decades. The number of ‘dead zones’ has roughly doubled every decade since the 1960s and has increased from about 20 in the 1950s to about 400 in the 2000s.
Oxygen-depleted zones in the Baltic Sea have increased more than 10-fold, from 5 000 to 60 000 km 2 , since 1900, with most of the increase happening after 1950. The Baltic Sea now has the largest dead zone in the world. Oxygen depletion has also been observed in other European seas in recent decades.
The primary cause of oxygen depletion is nutrient input from agricultural fertilisers, causing eutrophication. The effects of eutrophication are exacerbated by climate change, in particular increases in sea temperature and in water-column stratification.
Increases in regional sea temperatures have triggered a major northwards expansion of warmer water plankton and a northwards retreat of colder water plankton in the North-east Atlantic. This northerly movement has amounted to about 10 ° latitude (1 100 km) over the past 40 years, and it seems to have accelerated since 2000.
Sub-tropical species are occurring with increasing frequency in Europe’s seas, and sub-Arctic species are receding northwards.
Wild fish stocks are responding to changing temperatures and food supply by changing their distribution. This can have impacts on those local communities that depend on those fish stocks.
Further changes in the distribution of marine species, including fish stocks, are expected with the projected climate change, but quantitative projections of these distribution changes are not widely available.
Ocean surface pH has declined from 8.2 to below 8.1 over the industrial era as a result of the increase in atmospheric CO2 concentrations. This decline corresponds to an increase in oceanic acidity of about 30 %.
Ocean acidification in recent decades has been occurring 100 times faster than during past natural events over the last 55 million years.
Observed reductions in surface water pH are nearly identical across the global ocean and throughout continental European seas, except for variations near the coast. The pH reduction in the northernmost European seas, i.e. the Norwegian Sea and the Greenland Sea, is larger than the global average.
Ocean acidification already reaches into the deep ocean, particularly at the high latitudes.
Models consistently project further ocean acidification worldwide. Ocean surface pH is projected to decrease to values between 8.05 and 7.75 by the end of 21st century, depending on future CO2 emissions levels. The largest projected decline represents more than a doubling in acidity.
Ocean acidification is affecting marine organisms and this could alter marine ecosystems.
The warming of the oceans has accounted for approximately 93 % of the warming of the Earth since the 1950s. Warming of the upper (0–700 m) ocean accounted for about 64 % of the total heat uptake.
A trend for increasing heat content in the upper ocean has become evident since the 1950s. Recent observations also show substantial warming of the deeper ocean (between depths of 700 and 2 000 m and below 3 000 m).
Further warming of the oceans is expected with the projected climate change. The amount of warming is strongly dependent on the emissions scenario.
The extent and volume of the Arctic sea ice has declined rapidly since global data became available, especially in summer. Over the period 1979–2015, the Arctic has lost, on average, 42 000 km 2 of sea ice per year in winter and 89 000 km 2 per year by the end of summer.
The nine lowest Arctic sea ice minima since records began in 1979 have been the September ice cover in each of the last nine years (2007–2015); the record low Arctic sea ice cover in September 2012 was roughly half the average minimum extent of 1981–2010. The annual maximum ice cover in March 2015 and March 2016 were the lowest on record, and the ice is also getting thinner.
The maximum sea ice extent in the Baltic Sea shows a decreasing trend since about 1800. The decrease appears to have accelerated since the 1980s, but the interannual variability is large.
Arctic sea ice is projected to continue to shrink and thin. For high greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, a nearly ice-free Arctic Ocean in September is likely before mid-century. There will still be substantial ice in winter.
Baltic Sea ice, in particular the extent of the maximal cover, is projected to continue to shrink.
By the end of 2012, EU Member States had designated 5.9 %, or a total of 338 000 km 2 , of their seas as part of a complex network of marine protected areas.
As such, the EU had not reached Aichi target 11 of 10 % coverage of its seas. However, the target was reached in certain regional seas (Baltic Sea, the Greater North Sea including the Kattegat and the English Channel, and the Western Mediterranean Sea)
The main pathways for marine non-indigenous species (NIS) introduction in Europe´s seas are shipping (51%) and the Suez Canal (37%). These are followed by aquaculture related activities (17%) and, to a much lesser extent, aquarium trade (3%) and inland canals (2%). This is a pattern observed in all regional seas, except for the Eastern Mediterranean where introductions via the Suez Canal exceed those by shipping.
Trends in pathways show an increasing rate of introductions by shipping and corridors (in particular the Suez canal) since the 1990s, while aquaculture mediated introductions have been decreasing since the 2000s. This can be attributed to the adoption of effective EU regulation. Aquarium trade emerges as a lower but increasing pathway since the 2000s.
Available data shows that the seas around Europe currently harbor 1 416 non-indigenous species (NIS), almost 81% (1 143) of which have been introduced after 1950. These consist mostly of invertebrates (approx. 63%).
The rate of new introductions of NIS is continually increasing with 323 new species recorded since 2000 at pan-European level.
An increase in NIS introductions is observed for all regional seas. The most affected seas are in the Mediterranean, in particular in the Aegean-Levantine Sea. In this region over 160 new species have been recorded from 2000 to 2010.
Marine aquaculture production is increasing in Europe, mostly due to salmon production in Norway. Other types of production are relatively stable since the early 2000s. All aquaculture production in the EU-28 has been equally stable.
In 2012, by far the most cultivated species in Europe was Atlantic salmon, followed by mussels, rainbow trout, European sea bass, gilthead sea bream, oysters and carps, barbels and other cyprinids.
Finfish production accounts for the increase in European aquaculture, while shellfish production has been slowly decreasing since 1999. Aquatic plants production has been emerging since 2007.
The EU fishing fleet displays strong regional differences in terms of its composition, but it is mostly made up of small vessels (59%). There has been a marked decrease in fishing fleet capacity (i.e. number of vessels) between 2004 and 2001 , during which time small vessels decreased at an annual rate of approximately 1% and large vessels at 7% .
Most of the EU fishing effort is deployed by large vessels (74%) with mobile gears, of which the majority (61%) disturbs the seafloor. The decrease in capacity has been followed by a decrease in the effort of large vessels only (over 7% between 2004-2011), while the effort of small vessels has increased by approximately 5%. This is reflected in an overall shift towards gear with less impact on the seafloor.
The observed change of EU fishing effort and the shift towards gear with less impact is indicative of an overall decrease in fishing pressure and impact in European seas between 2004 and 2011.
Approximately 60% of commercial fish landings comes from stocks that are assessed with Good Environmental Status (GES) information. Strong regional differences exist, where the Mediterranean and Black seas remain poorly assessed.
Around 58% of the assessed commercial stocks are not in GES. Only 12% are in GES for both the level of fishing mortality and reproductive capacity. These percentages also vary considerably between regional seas.
The use of commercial fish and shellfish stocks in Europe, therefore, remains largely unsustainable. Nevertheless, important signs of improvement for certain stocks are being recorded in the North-East Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea.
Between 1985 and 2012, 7% of all stations in European seas that reported to the EEA showed decreasing trends in summer chlorophyll concentrations, whereas in 4% of the stations, increasing trends were found. In the majority of the stations (89%), no trends were observed.
Based on available data, chlorophyll concentrations, which are an indicator of eutrophication, are decreasing in the Greater North Sea, Bay of Biscay and Adriatic Sea, but increasing in many parts of the Baltic Sea. No trend assessment was possible for the Black Sea.
Between 1985 and 2012, m ost stations in European Seas that reported to the EEA showed no change in trends of concentrations of Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen (DIN) or orthophosphate. In addition, a decrease in concentrations was observed for 14% and 13% respectively, while only a minority of stations showed an increase.
These trends mostly refer to stations in the northeast Atlantic Ocean and Baltic Sea, however, due to lack of reported data for other regional seas. A vailable data shows nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations are decreasing in the southern North Sea which is an area with a recognised eutrophication problem. In the Baltic Sea, also affected by eutrophication, nitrogen concentrations are decreasing but phosphate concentrations show an increase at some stations.
In 2012, the concentrations of the eight assessed hazardous substances were generally: Low or Moderate for Hexachlorobenzene (HCB) and lindane; Moderate for cadmium, mercury, lead, dichlorodiphenyltrichloroethane (DDT) and 6-Benzylaminopurine BAP; and Moderate or High for polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB).
A general downward trend was found between 2003 and 2012 in the North-East Atlantic for cadmium, lead, lindane, PCB, DDT and BAP, and also in the Baltic Sea for lindane and PCB. No trends could be calculated for the other regional seas.
The quality of water at designated bathing waters in Europe (coastal and inland) has improved significantly since 1990.
Compliance with mandatory values (or at least sufficient quality) in EU coastal bathing waters increased from just below 80 % in 1990 to 95.3 % in 2012. Compliance with guide values (or excellent quality) likewise rose from over 68 % to 81.2 % in 2012.
Compliance with mandatory values (or at least sufficient quality) in EU inland bathing waters increased from over 52 % in 1990 to 91% in 2012. Similarly, the rate of compliance with guide values (or excellent quality) moved from over 36 % in 1990 to 72 % in 2012.
Temperature increases in the ocean have caused many marine organisms in European seas to appear earlier in their seasonal cycles than in the past. Some plankton species have advanced their seasonal cycle by 4–6 weeks in recent decades.
Projections of the phenological responses of individual species are not available, but phenological changes are expected to continue with projected further climate change.
Changes in the plankton phenology have important consequences for other organisms within an ecosystem and ultimately for the structure of marine food webs at all trophic levels. Potential consequences include increased vulnerability of North Sea cod stocks to over-fishing and changes in seabird populations.
For references, please go to http://www.eea.europa.eu/themes/coast_sea/indicators or scan the QR code.
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