Climate Change

climate change in the deep sea

The Issue: While global seafloor exploration progressively reveals the tremendous diversity and fragmentation of deep-sea ecosystems, their sensitivity to climate change remains largely unconstrained. Not only the conservation of biodiversity needs attention, but also the synergistic effects of climate change and increasing exploitation of resources (fishing, extraction of minerals and hydrocarbons) on deep-sea ecological functions and services.

Synergies across marine and climate sciences, geosciences and economics have established new paradigms and confirmed the vulnerability of the deep sea to climate change. Observations provide growing evidence of the influence of climatic forcing on ecosystems of the deep-seabed over many temporal scales (e.g. from storm events to climatic ocean oscillations). Numerous ecological hotspots are affected such as seamounts, ridges and canyons. Significant climate-driven impacts on ocean biogeochemistry (deoxygenation, acidification, changes in organic carbon fluxes) are predicted from empirical models built on climatic scenarios.

Areas where enhanced vertical mixing of ocean waters coincide with direct pressures of human activities (e.g. deep-sea mining, oil and gas extraction, deep-sea fishing), like seamounts, canyons, upwelling or polar regions, are also particularly sensitive to climatic effects. This justifies the need to consider climate change in environmental management and conservation strategies.

The Working Group: The DOSI Climate WG comprises 95 members from 18 countries and aims to provide a platform to centralize information about scenarios and observations to better assess the impact of climate change on deep-sea ecosystems and to address cumulative pressures. The goal is to facilitate integration of this information in environmental impact assessment and management plans and in the design of Marine Protected Areas. We will also aim to identify high-vulnerability areas and foster interdisciplinary approaches to investigate how deep-sea ecosystems interact with climate on a functional basis. Both experimental and theoretical support is required to improve predictive models for this overlooked but largest component of the Earth system. The working group also presents deep-ocean climate science to policy makers in the UNFCCC (at COP and SBSTA), the International Seabed Authority, the FAO and the BBNJ negotiations, through presentations, policy briefs, webinars and publications.

Current Activities:

  • Delivering a full quantitative analysis of submissions to the UNFCCC Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue. Read Executive Summary here.
  • Development of the Zotero-based deep-sea climate change bibliographic database and work on indexing papers (region/stressor/ecosystem/species)
  • Continued policy work (with Oceans and Climate Platform and others) to raise awareness of deep ocean in climate change via meeting attendance, reports and assessments at UNFCCC COPs, IPCC Oceans, CBD, SDG14, IPBES and EU initiatives, IGC, WCMC, DOOS, IMO and ISA
  • Engagement with UN World Ocean Assessment II
  • Enhance public awareness of the role of deep-sea ecosystems in global climate change – via media, blogs and other channels
  • Continue to promote dedicated ecological studies (international and interdisciplinary collaborations) and connect with deep-ocean observing strategies and initiatives such as DOOS

Past Activities (in reverse chronological order):

  • Executive Summary: Current Perceptions of the Ocean-Climate Nexus: An Analysis of Submissions to the UNFCCC Ocean and Climate Change Dialogue. Prepared by members of the Deep Ocean Stewardship Initiative Climate Working Group: Bobbi-Jo Dobush, Natalya Gallo, Melania Guerra, Bleuenn Guilloux, Elizabeth Holland, Lisa Levin, Sarah Seabrook.
  • Le Bris and Levin, Climate Change. In: Natural Capital and Exploitation of the Deep Sea.  M. Baker, E. Ramirez, P. Tyler (editors).  Oxford Univ. In Press.
  • June 2020. Levin, L.A. et al. (2020). Climate Change Considerations are Fundamental to Management of Deep‐Sea Resource Extraction. Global Change Biology.
  • DOSI-DOOS Submission to UN Ocean Dialogues, March 2020. Presentation on Deoxygenation, Virtual Ocean Dialogue (WEF) June 2020.
  • DOSI-DOOS submission to the UNFCCC SBSTA 52 Ocean Dialogue call for input, highlighting deep-sea issues.  Ongoing synthesis of Ocean Dialogue submissions by working group members. March 2020
  • DOSI-DOOS Submission to UN Ocean Dialogues (link to word document below) March 2020.    Presentation on Deoxygenation, Virtual Ocean Dialogue (WEF) June 2020.
  • FAO. 2019. Deep-ocean climate change impacts on habitat, fish and fisheries, by Lisa Levin, Maria Baker, and Anthony Thompson (eds). FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. 638. Rome, FAO. 186 pp. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.
  • DOSI participation at UNFCCC COP25, Madrid (December 2019). DOSI Side-Event: “Climate Change in the Deep Pacific and Deep Blue Economies.”  Wednesday December 11th at 10am, Moana Blue Pacific Pavilion.
    This was the ONLY COP 25 event focusing exclusively on climate and the deep ocean.
  • Bindoff, N.L., W.W.L. Cheung, J.G. Kairo, J. Arístegui, V.A. Guinder, R. Hallberg, N. Hilmi, N. Jiao, M.S. Karim, L. Levin, S. O’Donoghue, S.R. Purca Cuicapusa, B. Rinkevich, T. Suga, A. Tagliabue, and P. Williamson, 2019: Changing Ocean, Marine Ecosystems, and Dependent Communities. In: IPCC Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate [H.-O. Pörtner, D.C. Roberts, V. Masson-Delmotte, P. Zhai, M. Tignor, E. Poloczanska, K. Mintenbeck, A. Alegría, M. Nicolai, A. Okem, J. Petzold, B. Rama, N.M. Weyer (eds.)].
  • August 2019: DOSI climate change policy brief related to BBNJ:   Ocean Deoxygenation: A Hidden Threat to Biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction
  • July 2019: DOSI climate change policy brief related to deep seabed mining: Climate Change Considerations are Fundamental to Sustainable Management of Deep-Seabed Mining (July 2019);
  • June 2019: Levin, L.A. 2019. Sustainability in deep water: The challenges of climate change, human pressures, and biodiversity conservation. Oceanography 32(2):170–180
  • June 2019: Workshop – Deep Ocean Climate Connections with Seabed Mining,  Scripps Institution of Oceanography, USA. See above for associated policy brief.
  • April 2019: Revelle Commemorative lecture 2019 (Lisa Levin): Sustainability in Deep Water: The Challenges of Climate Change, Human Pressures and Biodiversity Conservation Link here
  • December 2018: UNFCCC COP24, Katowice, Poland. Deep-Ocean Observing Needs: Climate Science-Industry-Policy Nexus (Press Conference). Ocean Deoxygenation : Hidden climate impacts transforming our Ocean (Press Conference).
  • September 2018: Climate and biodiversity beyond the limits of national jurisdiction policy brief circulated during September 2018 BBNJ negotiations, NY
  • September 2018: UNESCO Paris. Contribution to poster session. Deep Thinking: Incorporating Climate into Ecosystem-Based Research and Management of the Deep Ocean and Vice Versa
  • June 2018: 4th International Symposium on the Effects of Climate Change on the World’s Oceans (ECCWO) under PICES, ICES-CIEM, FAO & IOC UNESCO Washington June 4-8, 2018. Conveners and keynotes of Session S6: The deep ocean under climate change
  • June 2018: Contributions to Oceans and Climate Platform fact sheet on deep ocean.
  • November 2017: UNFCCC COP23. DOSI Climate WG lead, Lisa Levin, leads Press Conference on Climate observations for managing human activities in the deep ocean. Climate-Driven Oxygen Loss in the Coastal and Open Ocean- Why should we care? (DOSI/WWF side event). The Ocean in NDCs: A Call for Ocean Research and Observation (Chile Side event). Deep-Ocean Science: Ecosystem Services, Adaptation and Mitigation (Ocean and Climate Initiatives Alliance). Climate change and the deep half of the planet (Press Conference).
  • October 2017: Gallo, Natalya D., David G. Victor, and Lisa A. Levin. Evaluating Ocean Commitments Under the Paris Agreement. Nature Climate Change 7: 833-838. DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE3422 (2017)
  • August 2017: DOSI/FAO workshop on Climate change impacts on deep-sea habitats, fish and fisheries, WHOI, 26 Aug 2017. Workshop Report.  FAO Technical report resulting from this workshop: FAO. 2019. Deep-ocean climate change impacts on habitat, fish and fisheries, by Lisa Levin, Maria Baker, and Anthony Thompson (eds). FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper No. 638. Rome, FAO. 186 pp. Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO.
  • July 2017: DOSI WG Climate Change Educational Flyer produced.
  • June 2017: UN SDG14. DOSI side event. Science for deep-ocean sustainability + Talk ‘Challenges of sustaining the integrity and improving resilience of ecosystems facing rapidly rising human imprints in the deep-sea
  • June 2017: Investing in ocean science for human well-being in current and future generations (Oceans Day event)
  • March 2017: DOSI Climate WG submitted a response to the UN ESOCA on SDG 14.3 (ocean acidification issues) and focused on the deep ocean.
  • February 2017: DOSI input to key deep-sea climate paper: Sweetman, A.K. et al., 2017. Major impacts of climate change on deep-sea benthic ecosystems. Elem Sci Anth, 5, p.4. DOI:
  • February 2017: Climate WG members, Francoise Gaill & Lisa Levin made presentations on climate change in the deep ocean and its effects on sustainability at several side events, as well as a plenary intervention during the Prep Comm for SDG 14 at the UN (Feb 2017)
  • November 2016: UNFCCC COP22 in Marrakesh. This clip features Climate Change Effects on Deep Ocean Biodiversity realms. Dr Lisa Levin introduces a panel of specialists during a Group discussion on Climate Change in the Deep Half of the Planet. Levin also represents DOSI during press conference to highlight deep ocean issues and climate
  • November 2016: DOSI contributions to document “Towards a strategic roadmap on oceans and climate 2016-2021
  • August 2016: DOSI Policy Brief submitted to the second PrepCom of the UN BBNJ – Climate Change in Oceans Beyond National Jurisdiction.
  • June 2016: DOSI statement to the new Oceans and Cryosphere IPCC scoping group – A case for the deep ocean.
  • December 2015: UNFCCC COP21, Paris. There was a strong momentum for including the oceans in the discussions at COP21. DOSI contributions by Nadine Le Bris and Lisa Levin highlighted the role of the deep ocean in climate and climate impacts on deep-sea ecosystems on a Global Ocean Forum event on December, 3rd at the COP21 Generation Climate Area (talks can be followed in French here or in English here (from 1.22)) and at a Tara Ocean symposium in Paris. At COP 21 we worked with others to make sure that the ocean is mentioned in the Paris Agreement. This has now officially happened (for the first time since the UNFCCC was signed in 1992) as of Dec. 12, 2015. Civil society is ready to support future ocean science & society issues on the role and vulnerability of the ocean under climate change, and the deep sea is acknowledged as an important part of it. A request to the IPCC for a special report on the oceans has been made by a consortium of 15 nations under the leadership of Prince Albert II of Monaco (due for release September 2019).
  • December 2015: In advance of COP 21 Levin and Le Bris published a Perspectives piece in Science called ‘The Deep Ocean Under Climate Change
  • December 2015: A short consensus statement signed by 272 scientists was presented to key figures at COP21 on the inclusion of the deep ocean in climate discussions.  See statement.
  • September2015: DOSI officially joined the Ocean and Climate Platform, a group of NGOs, scientists, academic institutions, professional associations and politicians dedicated to raising the profile of the ocean in climate negotiations.
  • August 2015: The Climate working group started its activities, building on the COP21-related initiatives and sessions at the 14th Deep-sea Biology Symposium to build an international network.