At AZTI we do research to understand the effects of climate change on the ocean, the coast and marine resources, to define strategies for adapting to these effects and to establish mitigation measures, transforming this great global challenge into an untapped opportunity.
These are some of the initiatives taken in recent years to respond to this challenge:
13.1 Adapting to climate change
- We have evaluated the impact of the climatic components of the rise in sea level on the Basque coast (KLIMPACT); established the vulnerability, risk and adaptation of the coast of the Basque Country to Climate Change (KOSTEGOKI) and collaborated in the drafting of the Donostia Climate Change Adaptation Plan, among others.
- Among other results, our research has shown that the sea level is rising by 3.2 mm per year and is expected to rise by between 50 and 80 cm along the Basque coast by the end of the century. This rise may lead to flooding in certain areas of the coast under live tide conditions and damage to ports, dikes and promenades during storms. It is estimated, for example, that a large part of the beaches will be lost as a result.
- In the marine field, the study of the vulnerability of species is being carried out and monitoring and precautionary criteria are proposed. Thus, for example, in the case of eels, taking into account the possible additional threat of climate change, it has been recommended that the conservation measures provided for under the Recovery Plan be strengthened and extended to try to ensure their future survival. In the case of seagrasses, pilot experiments have been successfully tested for their restoration.
- We have analysed how climate change is influencing fisheries, identifying a movement of fish species populations towards the north, the advance of their cycle, trophic amplification and the expansion of certain invasive species. Some results of our research: the distribution of mackerel spawning has moved from its latitudinal centre of about 16 km per decade to the north since 1992; anchovy spawning has been advanced by about 6 days per decade since 1987; the arrival of bonito in the Bay of Biscay has been advanced by about 2 days per decade since the 1980s, associated with the warming of the tropical and subtropical Atlantic sea. In the North Sea there are quite a few species of fish that have increased their populations, such as horse mackerel, anchovy, sprat, pollack, common sole, haddock, saithe and turbot. Tunas will move northwards in search of areas with similar temperatures to those we have at present, eels will also suffer a negative impact on the Iberian Peninsula, while for the anchovy of the Bay of Biscay it could be positive.
- Our studies have revealed that the warming of the seas could lead to 17% less biomass of marine species globally by the end of the century.
- AZTI has carried out the longest historical series of analyses of the state and characteristics of the sea, concluding that the temperature in the water column has increased by 0.46 °C over the last 3 decades.
13.2 Policies against climate change
- We have contributed to the FAO report that summarizes the impacts of climate change on fisheries at the global level and socio-economic adaptation measures..
- We have contributed to the design, development and evaluation of the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S) with the objective of providing Climate Impact Indicators (CIIs) for fisheries, aquaculture and spatial planning. This service offers, in open format (https://www.copernicus.eu/es/servicios/cambio-climatico) and based on scientific data, coherent and reliable information on climate change in support of the European Union’s adaptation and mitigation policies.
13.b Climate change planning and management
- In collaboration with IHOBE, we are leading studies on climate change and its impact on coastal areas in the Basque Country within the framework of the PIMA Adapta plan. This plan aims to implement projects that reduce vulnerability to the effects of climate change and has positioned us as a reference point for the impact of climate change on the Basque coast. We also participate in the LIFE Integrated Urban Klima 2050 project, which is the Basque Country’s largest climate action project in terms of budget. In this project many actions will be carried out to adapt to climate change throughout the territory, including especially the coast, to avoid, for example, the effects of waves and flooding in coastal towns and cities, and an observatory on climate change in the marine environment will be set up.
- We have developed a system of videometry and numerical tools that make it possible to anticipate how the coast and sands may evolve due to the increase in sea level caused by climate change. In this sense, our cameras monitor 10 sandy areas on the Guipuzcoa coast, 7 in Bizkaia and 2 in France, in the context of integrating climate change into sandy area management and assessing the effect of rising sea levels on coastal areas.