Future ocean biomass losses may widen socioeconomic equity gaps

DG Boyce, H Lotze, DP Tittensor, DA Carozza, B Worm.


Future climate impacts and their consequences are increasingly being explored using multi-model ensembles that average across individual model projections. Here we develop a statistical framework that integrates projections from coupled ecosystem and earth-system models to evaluate significance and uncertainty in marine animal biomass changes over the 21st century in relation to socioeconomic indicators at national to global scales. Significant biomass changes are projected in 40%–57% of the global ocean, with 68%–84% of these areas exhibiting declining trends under low and high emission scenarios, respectively. Given unabated emissions, maritime nations with poor socioeconomic statuses such as low nutrition, wealth, and ocean health will experience the greatest projected losses. These findings suggest that climate-driven biomass changes will widen existing equity gaps and disproportionally affect populations that contributed least to global CO2 emissions. However, our analysis also suggests that such deleterious outcomes are largely preventable by achieving negative emissions (RCP 2.6).