A review of climate change and the implementation of marine biodiversity legislation in the United Kingdom

Matt Frost, Georgia Bayliss-Brown, Paul Buckley, Martyn Cox, Stephen Dye, William Sanderson, Bethany Stoker, Narumon Withers Harvey

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    25 Citations (Scopus)
    131 Downloads (Pure)


    1. Legislation is a key means by which the conservation of marine biodiversity is achieved to help ensure the marine environment is used sustainably. Marine legislation has been developing both globally and nationally since the 1960s, and since the 1990s there has been more of a focus on policy being developed in a more holistic manner rather than a ‘piecemeal’, sectoral approach. Important marine legislative tools being used in the United Kingdom (UK), and internationally, include the designation of marine protected areas and the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) with its aim of meeting ‘Good Environmental Status’ (GES) for European seas by 2020.
    2. There is growing evidence of climate change impacts on marine biodiversity and this may compromise the effectiveness of any legislation intended to promote the sustainable management of marine resources.
    3. A review of key marine biodiversity legislation relevant to the UK shows climate change was not considered in the drafting of much early legislation. Despite the huge increase in knowledge of climate change impacts in recent decades, legislation is still limited in how it takes these impacts into account. There is scope, however, to account for climate change in implementing much of the legislation through a) existing references to environmental variability; b) review cycles; and c) secondary legislation and complementary policy development.
    4. For legislation relating to marine protected areas (e.g. the EC Habitats and Birds Directives), climate change has generally not been considered in the site-designation process, or for ongoing management, with the exception of the Marine (Scotland) Act. Given that changing environmental conditions (e.g. rising temperatures and ocean acidification) directly affect the habitats and species that sites are designated for, how this legislation is used to protect marine biodiversity in a changing climate requires further consideration.
    5. Accounting for climate change impacts on marine biodiversity in the development and implementation of legislation is vital to enable timely, adaptive responses. Marine modelling can play an important role in informing management decisions.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)576–595
    Number of pages20
    JournalAquatic Conservation: Marine and Freshwater Ecosystems
    Issue number3
    Early online date28 Jan 2016
    Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


    • Marine biodiversity
    • marine protected areas
    • Climate change
    • Policy
    • Good Environmental Status (GES)
    • Legislation
    • United Kingdom


    Dive into the research topics of 'A review of climate change and the implementation of marine biodiversity legislation in the United Kingdom'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

    Cite this