Impacts of climate change on human health, HABs and bathing waters, relevant to the coastal and marine environment around the UK

Eileen Bresnan, C. Baker-Austin, C.J.A. Campos, K. Davidson, Martin Edwards, A. Hall, A. McKinney, A.D. Turner

Research output: Book/ReportOther report


Human health can be affected by toxin-producing phytoplankton,
pathogenic Vibrio species (bacteria) and noroviruses (NoV) in UK
• The influence of climate change on toxin-producing phytoplankton is
complex. This can be difficult to distinguish from shorter-term
weather events and larger-scale circulatory processes. Confidence in
current long-term prediction for harmful algal bloom (HAB) species
is low. Data characterising the response of different HAB species to a
broad range of environmental parameters are needed to improve short
term (one to two week) forecasts and longer-term predictive models.
• During the 2018 heatwave experienced in the UK (June–July), record
water temperatures coinciding with elevated levels of pathogenic
Vibrio species were identified from several sites along the south-west
coast of the UK.
• Climate change will modify the geographical distribution and
seasonality of NoV. However, it is difficult to predict the effects of
these changes on disease risk because NoV infectivity is determined
by a complex set of factors, including host availability and
susceptibility, emergence of new strains, and multiple environmental
transmission pathways.
• Surveillance studies indicate that NoV prevalence in water and
shellfish is related to temperature, but it is not known how projected
Citation: Bresnan, E., BakerAustin, C., Campos, C.J.A,
Davidson, K., Edwards, M.,
Hall, A., McKinney, A. and
Turner, A.D. (2020) Impacts
of climate change on human
health, HABs and bathing
waters, relavant to the
coastal and marine
environment around the UK.
MCCIP Science Review
2020, 521–545.
Submitted: 10 2019
Published online: 15th
January 2020.
Human health
MCCIP Science Review 2020 522 521–545
increases in sea-surface temperatures will affect the risk of illness.
Runoff from more frequent and intense extreme rainfall events will
increase NoV contamination from sewage sources and compromise
water quality, particularly in areas served by combined sewerage
infrastructure. Following sewer overflows, NoV concentrations in
nearshore waters can be 10 times higher than concentrations during
‘no discharge’ conditions.
• A survey of tetrodotoxin (TTX) in shellfish from around the UK
revealed the toxin to be present in quantifiable amounts in shellfish
from southern England and in one sample from Scotland. Highest
TTX concentrations were recorded when water temperatures
exceeded 15°C (maximum concentration of total TTXs; 253 µg/kg)
although the toxin was also present at other times of the year. The role
of water temperature on the occurrence and distribution of this toxin
in UK shellfish and biota merits further investigation.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherMarine Climate Change Impacts Partnership
Number of pages25
VolumeScience reviews 2020
Publication statusPublished - 15 Jan 2020

Publication series

NameMCCIP Science Review 2020


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