Rising and warming UK seawater having major impact on wildlife

  • Video report by ITV News Science Correspondent Alok Jha

A major report has found that sea levels around Britain are steadily rising - and the process is speeding up.

The study, produced for the UK Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership, also found our waters are getting warmer.

It means the seas are filling with warm water fish, while cold water species we are used to are moving north.

Squid and anchovies are being drawn into UK waters in large numbers thanks to warmer conditions.

But cod is migrating north to cooler temperatures. And seabirds such as puffins, fulmars, terns and razorbills are disappearing as the fish they rely on are driven north or deeper.

Dr Matt Frost from the Marine Biological Association said: "The sea surface temperature is increasing by anything up to half a degree centigrade per decade, which doesn't sound a great deal for most people, but actually in terms of the ecology... that's a very significant change, and it's a very gradual increase over a long period."

The report also found that the strength of the Gulf Stream is weakening, but a collapse of the current, which is key to the UK's mild climate, is unlikely this century.

The changes in sea temperature are impacting fish as well as birds.

An increasing acidification of the ocean was also reported, as an increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is absorbed by the seawater.

Scientists warned this could harm animals' ability to form their shells, but the higher CO2 could benefit some algae and seagrasses.

The changes to the life around our coast so far have been mixed. But as climate change makes its presence felt, we know that those changes will become more rapid and could be ecologically devastating.