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Previously in ClimateChangePost


As a result of the extreme hot summer of 2003, 44,000 people died in Western Europe. How rare was this extreme event, and what is the effect of climate change?

The flooding events over the last years do not seem to be related to changes in the magnitude of daily rainfall. It is the frequency of multi-day precipitation accumulations that has changed.

Well-known examples of UK world heritage sites that are threatened by climate change are the Neolithic monuments of the Orkney Islands in Scotland and at Stonehenge and Avebury in southern England.

Is England’s winter flooding of 2013/2014 influenced by anthropogenic climate change? British Prime Minister David Cameron: ‘I very much suspect that it is’.

Changes in snowmelt affect the size and timing of flood peaks in Britain. Snow is a major component of flow for catchments particularly in Scotland.

Experiences in Copenhagen, New York, London, Rotterdam and Amsterdam shared at the Adaptation Futures Conference in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, May 2016

Eighty-five sites on the London Underground are at high and rising risk of flooding, according to a report that says it is “only a matter of time” before serious flooding strikes.

Blanket peat erosion not only results from human action, climate also affects the stability of the peat and associated erosion.

Climate change may affect urban flooding in several ways: through impacts from rivers and coastal sources, and through surcharged drainage systems. All of these are challenges in the UK.

Flood insurance differs widely in scope and form across Europe. There seems to be little appetite for harmonization of flood insurance arrangements across the EU

Are the floods like those in 2007 just bad luck or is heavy rainfall in summer, especially in July, something we have reasons to expect

How much sea level rise is to be expected at the upper limit of current IPCC scenarios? This question has been dealt with for northern Europe

Due to climate change, a downward trend in the total number of damaging hailstorms during the 21st century was projected

Potential influences on the United Kingdom’s floods of winter 2013/14 have been assessed. Total winter rainfall in the Thames catchment in this winter was the highest on record.

The effects of warm temperature on mortality from cardiorespiratory causes may not be the same from one part of the country to another. This was concluded from a study where

In the UK 90% of electricity generation comes from thermoelectric power stations. Cooling of thermoelectric plants is often achieved by water abstractions from the natural environment.

Floods in England in the past have impacted upon large numbers of historic structures. Increasing concern has been voiced on risks posed by flood events to historic buildings

Absolute number of excess winter deaths may increase in the coming decades due to an increase in future winter temperature volatility and because of a growing and ageing population

It is estimated that some 70% of the total water used in production and consumption in the UK is imported from other countries in the form of water embodied in goods.

Possible temperature-related climate change impacts on the main line railway network of Great Britain have been assessed. Regional climate model projections for the future period 2030–2059

Severe hurricane-force (> 32.6 m/s) storms can cause floods in west-European coastal regions and inflict large-scale damage on infrastructure and agriculture.

Options have been investigated for the future of protecting London from flooding from the sea. Economic analyses have shown that improving the existing flood defences

Overall, for the second half of this century, the majority of regional climate models project an increase in runoff during winter and a decrease over summer ...

The typical pattern of UK wind speeds, which tend to be high in winter and lower in summer, could be emphasised further under the influence of climate change ...

Potential impacts of climate change on the UK’s electricity network have been assessed ...

For London an urban heat island effect was calculated of 2.0 ± 0.3°C for minimum temperature in summer and of 1.1 ± 0.3°C for minimum temperature in winter ...

Substantial reductions in potential groundwater recharge are projected for the 21st century in southern Europe and increases in northern Europe ...

Wind-storm losses on a European-wide property insurance portfolio have been quantified under current and future climatic conditions ...


I recommend

National plans/strategies for the United Kingdom

  • The UK’s Sixth National Communication under the United Nations Framework Convention On Climate Change (UNFCCC) (2014). Download.
  • West and Gawith (2005). Measuring Progress.  Preparing for climate change through the UK Climate Impacts Programme. Download.

Reports/papers that focus on important UK topics

  • Climate Change: observations, projections and impacts. Downloads.
  • Coastal flood risk: Tsimplis et al. (2005). Towards a vulnerability assessment of the UK and northern European coasts: the role of regional climate variability. Download.
  • Cultural-historical heritage: Cassar (2005). Climate change and the historic environment. Download.
  • Flood risk in the Thames Estuary: Lavery and Donovan (2005). Flood risk management in the Thames Estuary looking ahead 100 years. Download.
  • Flood risk in the Thames Estuary: Eldridge and Horn (2009). A case study of the Thames Gateway: Flood risk, planning policy and insurance loss potential. Download.
  • Insurance and flood risk (coastal, river, and flash floods): Crichton (2005). Flood risk & insurance in England & Wales: are there lessons to be learned from Scotland? Download.
  • River flood risk: Pitt Review Team (2008). Learning lessons from the 2007 floods. Download.
  • Storms: Alexander et al. (2005). Recent observed changes in severe storms over the United Kingdom and Iceland. Download.

Reports/papers that present a sound overview for Europe

  • Quante, M. and F. Colijn (eds), 2016. North Sea Region climate change assessment NOSCCA. Regional Climate Studies, Springer Nature, 555 pp. Download.
  • Eisenreich (2005). Climate change and the European water dimension. A report to the European water directors.
  • European Environment Agency (2005). Vulnerability and adaptation to climate change in Europe. Download.
  • European Environment Agency, JRC and WHO (2008). Impact of Europe’s changing climate – 2008 indicator-based assessment. Download.

Reports/papers that focus on specific topic, relevant for all of Europe

  • Agriculture: Rounsevell et al. (2005). Future scenarios of European agricultural land use II. Projecting changes in cropland and grassland. Download.
  • Agriculture: Fischer et al. (2005). Socio-economic and climate change impacts on agriculture: an integrated assessment, 1990–2080. Download.
  • Biodiversity: Thuiller et al. (2005). Climate change threats to plant diversity in Europe. Download.
  • Coastal erosion: Salman et al. (2004). Living with coastal erosion in Europe: sediment and space for sustainability. Download.
  • Droughts: Blenkinsop and Fowler (2007). Changes in European drought characteristics projected by the PRUDENCE regional climate models. Download.
  • Droughts: European Environment Agency (2009). Water resources across Europe – confronting water scarcity and drought. Download.
  • Forestry: Seppälä et al. (2009). Adaptation of forests and people to climate change. A global assessment report. Download.
  • Health: Kosatsky (2005). The 2003 European heat waves. Download.
  • Health: WHO (2008). Protecting health in Europe from climate change. Download.
  • Insurance and Business: Mills et al. (2005). Availability and affordability of insurance under climate change. A growing challenge for the U.S. Download.
  • Security and Crisis management: German Advisory Council on Global Change (2007). World in transition: Climate change as a security risk. Summary for policy-makers. Download.
  • Storms: Gardiner et al. (2010). Destructive storms in European forests: Past and forthcoming impacts. Download.
  • Storms: Pinto et al. (2007). Changing European storm loss potentials under modified climate conditions according to ensemble simulations of the ECHAM5/MPI-OM1 GCM. Download.
  • Tourism: Deutsche Bank Research (2008). Climate change and tourism: Where will the journey lead? Download.

Additional information

National adaptation strategies

Database on disasters worldwide

Weblogs in English

EU funded Research Projects



Climate change scenarios

Climate change impacts and vulnerabilities

Coastal areas

Cultural-historical heritage

Droughts and water scarcity


Flash Floods



Fresh water resources


Insurance and Business

Land use

Mitigation / adaptation options and costs

Security and Crisis management

Transport, Infrastructure and Building

Urban areas

Fishery United Kingdom

Vulnerabilities - Overview

West and Gawith (1) present an overview of expected climate change impacts on several activities for different regions of the United Kingdom, based on several regional scoping studies. The results for fishery are listed below.

A blank cell indicates that no specific issues were identified for the region besidesthose noted in the first row. Each region identified and discussed issues differently, so this table might not provide comprehensive coverage of all issues.


Region Positive impact on fishery Negative impact on fishery Uncertain impact on fishery
Majority of regions   Reduced stream flow and water quality Change in marine species distributions and fishery
South West New southern species in Cornish waters Significant losses of indigenous species to the North
South East   Problems for migratory salmon  
East of England   Inland fish possibly affected if land allowed to flood  
East Midlands     Angling affected by disturbance to breeding season of fish
West Midlands      
North West      
Yorkshire and Humber   Possible increase of algae growth in coastal waters  
North East   Detrimental impact on some fish populations  
Scotland Benefits to aquaculture include higher growth rates and new species    
Northern Ireland     Some cultured shellfish may spawn allowing them to colonis

Vulnerabilities - Inland fishery

Fishery may decline, limited by low stream flows and increased stream temperatures (1). Fish are unable to control their body heat internally, but do so by swimming to waters that suit their temperature optimum. Fish are particularly sensitive to small changes in temperature, causing changes in distribution at the extremities of their ranges (2).

Risks of climate change for inland fishery are (2):

  • Fish production will suffer if wetlands and other habitats that serve as nurseries are lost with sea level rise;
  • In the rivers, higher temperatures and lower oxygen concentration are unfavourable to salmon, sea-trout and trout, and might tip the competitive balance towards less valuable coarse fish, such as pike, allowing both native species and those introduced by anglers to extend their ranges (4);
  • Increasing pollutants from concentrated river flow during droughts and from leaching of agricultural land during high rainfall may lead to poorer inshore water quality;
  • The remobilisation of metalliferous mine and industrial wastes due to storms and increased winter rainfall may pollute inshore waters and have potential impacts on fishery (larvae), and shellfish stocks.

Vulnerabilities - Marine fishery

Analyses of Scottish and English commercial catch data in the North Sea spanning the period 1913–2007 have revealed that the locations where peak catches of target species such as cod, haddock, plaice and sole were obtained have all shifted over the past 100 years, albeit not in a consistent way (13). For example, catches of cod seem to have shifted steadily north-eastward and towards deeper water in the North Sea and this reflects both climatic influences and intensive fishing. Plaice distribution has shifted north-westward towards the central North Sea, again reflecting climatic influences, in particular sea surface temperature as also confirmed. 

Impacts on coastal fishery are uncertain, but external pressures on declining fish stocks are likely to exert far greater pressures on the industry (2,3). Traditional species such as cod are migrating north whilst new, more exotic species are now present in southern waters. The other items on the fisherman’s agenda include the recent pronouncements on EU quotas (belatedly designed to control overfishing), and the need to renegotiate the Common Fishing Policy.

Rising global temperatures are likely to reduce the overall productivity of the oceans, affecting species across the entire marine food chain, from plankton, to many fish species and seabirds. Such changes would exacerbate current pressures on fish stocks, and would have serious consequences for fishery in the region, which are important to the local economy. There is recent evidence to demonstrate that fish species are changing in local waters. Fish are unable to control their body heat internally, but do so by swimming to waters that suit their temperature optimum. Fish are particularly sensitive to small changes in temperature, causing changes in distribution at the extremities of their ranges (2).

Trawl data from Scottish research vessels dating from January 1925 show that catches of the warm water pelagic species, anchovy (Engraulis encrasicholus) and sardine (Sardina pilchardus), increased suddenly after 1995. Most were observed in the first quarter of each year, with 1998 and 2003 having the largest numbers, although few data are available for the last quarter. These long-term changes are thought to be due  to rising sea temperatures (5).

Many species of plankton and fish have shifted their distribution northward and sub‑tropical species are occurring with increasing frequency in European waters, changing the composition of local and regional marine ecosystems in a major way (6,11). Recent studies have shown that the northward movement of southerly species has caused species richness in the North Sea to increase (7). This may have negative ecological and socio‑economic effects: the three large species that have decreased their range the most in the North Sea are all commercially relevant, while only one of the five most increasing species and less than half of the all the species that expanded their range are of commercial value. A climate change-induced shift from large to smaller species is thus likely to reduce the value of North Sea fisheries (7).

During the past 40 years there has been a northerly movement of warmer‑water plankton by 10° latitude (1100 km) in the north‑east Atlantic and a similar retreat of colder‑water plankton to the north. This northerly movement has continued over the past few years and appears to have accelerated since 2000. Sole and other warm‑water species have become relatively more abundant in northerly areas, while plaice and other cold‑water species have become rare in southerly areas (10). Climate is only one of many factors which affect distribution and abundance, but the consistency of the response of this particular index to temperature, both within particular areas (i.e. time trend) and across all areas (i.e. geographic trend) suggest that the causal relationship is quite strong. Scenario projections of future movements of marine species have not yet been made (8).

The kinds of fish which are available for human consumption are not necessarily affected by the distribution changes shown above, because fish are often transported long distances from where they are caught to where they are marketed, but the prices of fish may change if certain species that are common today become less common. People eating locally caught fish may notice changes in the species they catch or buy. Changes in distribution may affect the management of fisheries. Fisheries regulations in the EU include allocations of quotas based on historic catch patterns, and these may need to be revised (8). In general it is not possible to predict whether northward shifts in distribution will have a positive or a negative effect on total fisheries production (9).

Risks of climate change for marine fishery are (2):

  • fish production will suffer if wetlands and other habitats that serve as nurseries are lost with sea level rise;
  • stocks of more northerly species such as cod, sprat and plaice may decrease;
  • increasing sea levels and storm events could damage harbours and quays;
  • estuaries may become silted up leading to permanent dredging to ensure access;
  • climate change impacts are likely to exacerbate existing stresses on fish stocks – notably overfishing and pollution.

The major issue faced by both freshwater and marine fishery is the decline in fish stocks. In recent years salmon and sea-trout numbers have fallen, particularly in the rivers of the west coast of Scotland (4). The stocks of most of the commercially exploited species of sea fish are close to, or out with, safe biological limits. There are many possible causes, which include over-fishing, pollution, eutrophication (enrichment of water with nutrients from, for example, agricultural runoff or sewage sludge), acidic runoff from forestry and changes in predator numbers. Another possible cause that has come to light recently is changes in ocean currents: these can affect the amount of food available to adult fish, and disrupt the normal pattern of dispersal of larval fish to the main fishing areas. Over-fishing is generally considered to be the major cause of the decline in the sea fishery.

Scientists state that there is convincing evidence that changes in ocean currents are occurring and that these might be contributing to the decline in wild salmon by reducing their survival at sea (4). In the rivers, higher temperatures and lower oxygen concentration are unfavourable to salmon, sea-trout and trout, and might tip the competitive balance towards less valuable coarse fish, such as pike, allowing both native species and those introduced by anglers to extend their ranges.

The East of England has several inshore fisheries of note, such as Oyster beds in the Blackwater Estuary. These may be affected by sea level rise and flood defence decisions. For example, the fishery in the Blackwater Estuary may be affected by the largest coastal realignment project in Europe at Abbots Hall Farm in Essex. Here Essex Wildlife Trust has converted 84 hectares of arable farmland into saltmarsh and grassland as part of a nationwide initiative to restore the UK’s rapidly declining coastal wetlands (3).

Adaptation strategy

Adaptation strategies include (12):

  • Travelling further to fish for current species, if stocks move away from existing ports.
  • Diversifying the livelihoods of port communities, this may include recreational fishing where popular angling species become locally more abundant (e.g. seabass).
  • Increasing vessel capacity if stocks of currently fished species increase.
  • Changing gear to fish for different species, if new or more profitable opportunities to fish different species are available.
  • Developing routes to export markets to match the changes in catch supplied. These routes may be to locations (such as southern Europe), which currently eat the fish stocks which may move into northern waters.
  • Stimulating domestic demand for a broader range of species, through joined-up retailer and media campaigns. 

It is recommended that artificial reefs should be developed to capitalize on the appearance of exotic species for diving and recreational fishery (2). This will result in immediate benefits to the industry regardless of the pace of climate change as it is known that exotic species are already appearing regularly in South West waters.

The aquaculture industry could benefit from higher growth rates caused by increased water temperature, though this might also favour pests and diseases (4). Farming of different species requiring warmer water might become possible. Increased summer rainfall might allow salmon to enter the rivers more quickly, avoiding netsmen and predators.

Future change requires better management of river catchments and river bank habitat for salmon. A closed season in spring for salmon fishing with rods or mandatory catch and release regulations could be introduced. At sea, switching the fishing effort to new (warmer water) fish species is possible. The fishing industry is inherently adaptable, but there can be significant costs associated with re-equipping boats to catch different species (4).


The references below are cited in full in a separate map 'References'. Please click here if you are looking for the full references for the United Kingdom.

  1. West and Gawith (2005)
  2. C-CLIF and GEMRU (2003)
  3. Land Use Consultants, CAG Consultants and SQW Limited (2003b)
  4. Kerr et al. (1999)
  5. Beare et al. (2004)
  6. Brander et al. (2003); Beare et al. (2004); Beare et al. (2005); Perry et al. (2005); Stebbing et al. (2002), in: EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  7. Hiddink and Hofstede (2008), in: EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  8. EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  9. Brander (2007), in: EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  10. Brander et al., 2003, in: EEA, JRC and WHO (2008)
  11. Nicolas et al. (2011)
  12. Defra (2013), in: Pinnegar et al. (2016)
  13. Engelhard et al. (2011), (2014b), both in: Pinnegar et al. (2016)