Analysis of long-term trends in the SOTEAG rocky shore monitoring programme: responses to climate change 1976-2014

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The Sullom Voe Environmental Advisory Group (SOTEAG) has presided over a 40-year programme of environmental monitoring in and around the Sullom Voe Oil Terminal in Shetland. The aim of this programme is to detect effects of the operations associated with the terminal on the ecology and chemistry of the local environment. To confidently attribute observed changes to such local operations, it has been important to understand the magnitude
of natural fluctuations in biological populations and sources of potential contaminants other than the Terminal itself. Over the period of the programme, the warming influence of anthropogenic greenhouse gases on the global climate has become increasingly evident. In this report, the changes in rocky shore communities associated with climatic warming in Sullom Voe are documented using a measure of the average thermal affinity of the species
present in the area; a novel method that shows that the composition of the communities around the shores of the Voe have tracked changes in sea surface temperature since 1976.
Main findings
 The composition of rocky shore communities in and around Sullom Voe has changed in line with expectations from the rise in sea surface temperature since 1976.
 Community Temperature Index values, the average thermal affinity of rocky shore species weighted by each species’ abundance, increased from an average of 8.6°C in the late
1970s to around 9.3°C in the period since 2000. Average annual sea surface temperatures increased from around 9.4°C to about 10.3°C over the same period.
 Changes were consistent across all the sites in the survey programme with 13 out of 15 sites analysed showing significant increases in Community Temperature Index.
 The shift in average thermal affinity of community members was produced by a tendency for cold water species to decline and warm water specie to increase over the duration of
the survey.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherScottish Association for Marine Science
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016

Publication series

NameSAMS Internal reports


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