Review of climate vulnerability assessment of Scotland’s marine environment and marine economy

Scotland’s seas cover nearly six times its land area and approximately 63% of the total UK Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) (Scottish Government, 2022). They also support several sectors crucial to Scotland’s economy, from oil and gas and aquaculture to fishing and marine tourism, collectively forming what is known as the “marine economy”.

The impacts of climate change on Scotland’s seas are expected to become more frequent and severe over the coming decades: Warming seas, reduced oxygen, ocean acidification and sea level rise are already affecting ecosystems in the North Sea, adding pressure to historically overexploited fish populations, and exacerbating invasive species and disease spread in aquaculture.

This research reviews climate vulnerability assessments (CVAs) of natural and socio-economic marine systems in Scotland and internationally to:

  1. identify focus, spatial scale and gaps in CVAs relevant to Scotland;
  2. identify examples of CVAs methodologies used internationally, including the strengths and weaknesses of these methodologies; and
  3. suggest how to strengthen vulnerability assessments of the marine environment and marine economy in Scotland.
Key findings and recommendations

Our review found that Scotland already has many of the foundations in place to conduct a full CVA for its marine environment.  It is also evident that the strengths and weaknesses of Scottish marine CVA literature are similar to those which exist internationally.

Addressing the identified gaps requires an understanding of the effects of climate change across the range of sectors that are relevant to the marine economy.

To strengthen CVAs for the marine environment in Scotland the report proposes to:

  • engage with experts and stakeholders in Scotland, starting with those in MCCIP and those engaged in the UKCCRA process to facilitate a cross-sectoral discussion of climate vulnerability in Scotland’s marine environment;
  • identify priority sectors where additional research is needed and those deemed important for Scotland’s marine environment in order to gain a complete picture of climate vulnerability in the marine environment in Scotland;
  • identify robust studies included in this review which would potentially benefit from being updated and develop a plan for funding priority research activities; and
  • draw from robust sources such as those identified through this study to expand on the existing CVA work in Scotland.