What are the consequences of different levels of 21st century climate change for ocean ecosystems and ocean dependent communities?

Recent national and international assessments confirm that the Earth’s climate and oceans are rapidly changing, with major implications for species, ecosystems, people and economies worldwide. Oceans play a significant role in regulating the climate, absorbing substantial amounts of the warming from anthropogenic activities, and providing food, jobs and other vital services to billions of people world-wide. Recognizing the valuable ocean contributions to communities, economies and nations across the globe, there is an urgent need to evaluate the effects of a changing climate on oceans, understand how marine species and humans are responding/adapting to these changes, and identify ways to reduce impacts and increase resilience in a changing world.

The 4th International Symposium on the Effects of Climate Change on the World’s Oceans (ECCWO) will explore the consequences of climate change for the ocean (both offshore and coastal waters), its ecosystems, and its dependent communities under a range of future scenarios and socioeconomic pathways. By convening a series of integrated discussions amongst an interdisciplinary group of ocean-oriented scientists, the Symposium will facilitate the synthesis of information on how climate-related changes will influence oceans, marine ecosystems and society. We expect this knowledge will be useful in informing societal choices for preparing for and responding to changing oceans including adaptation and management options. The Symposium outputs will provide information for use in a variety of national and international analyses of climate impacts on the world’s oceans.

Rapid progress in understanding the planet’s climate system now enables us to project the implications of alternative scenarios (Representative Concentration Pathways and associated Shared Socio-economic Pathways) on current and future conditions of coupled socio–ecological marine systems throughout the world. These advances build on a growing body of science from detailed process studies focused on the adaptive capacity of single species or human communities, to new modeling techniques that evaluate climate-driven changes, interactions, and feedbacks within socio-ecological systems under alternative future scenarios. This Symposium will provide a forum for scientists to discuss exciting innovations, discoveries and outcomes of their research, and bring important decision-relevant knowledge to decision-makers and stakeholders.

The 4th ECCWO Symposium continues a series of climate change meetings initially organized by the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES), and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO). The first Symposium took place in 2008 (Gijón, Spain) responding to the urgent need for assessment of the consequences of climate change on the world’s oceans. The second Symposium was convened in 2012 (Yeosu, Korea), and explored, in detail, the many interconnected ways in which climate change affects ocean ecosystems and their living resources, from physical, chemical, biological and ecological perspectives. The third Symposium was held in 2015 (Santos, Brazil) and began to expand the focus from current and possible future climate impacts on oceans to how to reduce impacts and increase resilience of ocean systems (building from findings of the 5th Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change). Each meeting attracted about 400 scientists from nearly 50 countries.

The 4th ECCWO Symposium will be held in June 2018 in Washington D. C. (USA). In addition to ICES, PICES and IOC-UNESCO, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) has joined as a Symposium organizer along with the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The Symposium comes at a key juncture in understanding and responding to climate impacts on ocean systems, and the information generated will be useful to national and international assessments of the implications of climate-related changes on oceans, marine ecosystems and society.

The Symposium will include invited plenary sessions, contributed paper sessions with extended periods for discussion, and workshops that will explore topics in greater depth. We anticipate a suite of theme sessions that will provide opportunities for scientific exchange within disciplines, as well as forums for the integration of knowledge of climate impacts from physics to society (e.g. from physical processes and their interaction with ecosystem dynamics, to food provision and ocean governance). Other theme sessions will focus on comparing observed and projected changes in physical and chemical oceanography, the associated changes in the productivity, distribution, ecology and phenology of species, and the impacts of these changes on marine ecosystem structure and function, fisheries, and other socio-ecological systems. These may include comparisons within a system under different scenarios and/or between systems under common scenarios. The Symposium will advance understanding of the vulnerability and resiliency of ocean ecosystems and ocean-dependent human communities in a changing climate, and thereby inform societal consideration of risks, opportunities and actions concerning the world’s oceans.

Call for session and workshop proposals (by June 9)