2022
NATURE CLIMATE CHANGE

A climate risk index for marine life

DG Boyce, DP Tittensor, C Garilao, S Henson, K Kaschner, K Kesner-Reyes, A Pigot, RB Reyes, G Reygondeau, KE Schleit, NL Shackell, P Sorongon-Yap, B Worm

Abstract

Climate change is impacting virtually all marine life. Adaptation strategies will require a robust understanding of the risks to species and ecosystems and how those propagate to human societies. We develop a unified and spatially explicit index to comprehensively evaluate the climate risks to marine life. Under high emissions (SSP5-8.5), almost 90% of ~25,000 species are at high or critical risk, with species at risk across 85% of their native distributions. One tenth of the ocean contains ecosystems where the aggregated climate risk, endemism and extinction threat of their constituent species are high. Climate change poses the greatest risk for exploited species in low-income countries with a high dependence on fisheries. Mitigating emissions (SSP1-2.6) reduces the risk for virtually all species (98.2%), enhances ecosystem stability and disproportionately benefits food-insecure populations in low-income countries. Our climate risk assessment can help prioritize vulnerable species and ecosystems for climate-adapted marine conservation and fisheries management efforts.