Climate Change is changing Australia's ocean environment. The Marine Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Report Card for Australia demonstrates that climate change is having significant impacts on Australia’s oceans and marine ecosystems.

The challenge

Climate change threatens our marine future

Australia’s climate and prosperity is strongly connected to the oceans; we are highly sensitive to an ocean influenced climate, extract huge economic benefit from our ocean territory, are custodians of marine biodiversity of globally significant conservation value, and have a highly urbanised population living on or near the coast.

Australia’s oceans generate considerable economic wealth through fisheries, aquaculture, tourism and mining. Marine ecosystems provide irreplaceable services including coastal defence, oxygen production, nutrient recycling and climate regulation. Unless we adapt and mitigate, climate change will threaten our economic prosperity and social well-being.

There is now striking evidence of extensive southward movements of tropical fish and plankton species in southeast Australia, declines in abundance of temperate species, and the first signs of the effect of ocean acidification on marine species with shells.

Tropical fish, Pomacanthus semicirculatus

Our response

The 2012 Marine Report Card

98 of Australia’s leading marine scientists from 37 universities and research organisations contributed to the 2012 Report Card. Each section contains information on what is already happening, what may happen it future, and describes the actions underway to prepare and adapt to changes.

The results

Improving information to help marine ecosystems adapt

The report card highlights that the Australian science community is widely engaged in research, monitoring and observing programs to increase our understanding of climate change impacts and inform management. The comprehensive information shows that adaptation planning is already underway, from seasonal forecasts for fisheries and aquaculture, to climate-proofing of breeding sites for turtles and seabirds. The up-to-date information presented will assist ocean managers and policy makers to improve and justify actions to help our marine ecosystems adapt to the threat of climate change.

Key findings:

  • Climate change is already happening: Widespread physical changes include rapid warming of the southeast and increasing flow of the East Australia Current. Increasing biological impacts include reduced calcification in Southern Ocean plankton and Great Barrier Reef corals from both warming and acidification.
  • Scientists, managers and resource users are working to design adaptation strategies that reduce the vulnerability of marine species, systems and industries to climate change.
  • We are observing and monitoring key physical and biological variables in the ocean, which is critical to evaluating effective adaptation strategies.
  • Preparation for climate change also involves changes in management or policy arrangements that currently limit adaptation responses.

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