A review of the combined effects of climate change and other local human stressors on the marine environment

Elena Gissi, Elisabetta Manea, Antonios D. Mazaris, Simonetta Fraschetti, Vasiliki Almpanidou, Stanislao Bevilacqua, Marta Coll, Giuseppe Guarnieri, Elena Lloret-Lloret, Marta Pascual, Dimitra Petza, Gil Rilov, Maura Schonwald, Vanessa Stelzenmüller, Stelios Katsanevakis

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Climate change (CC) is a key, global driver of change of marine ecosystems. At local and regional scales, other local human stressors (LS) can interact with CC and modify its effects on marine ecosystems. Understanding the response of the marine environment to the combined effects of CC and LS is crucial to inform marine ecosystem-based management and planning, yet our knowledge of the potential effects of such interactions is fragmented. At a global scale, we explored how cumulative effect assessments (CEAs) have addressed CC in the marine realm and discuss progress and shortcomings of current approaches. For this we conducted a systematic review on how CEAs investigated at different levels of biological organization ecological responses, functional aspects, and the combined effect of CC and HS. Globally, the effects of 52 LS and of 27 CC-related stressors on the marine environment have been studied in combination, such as industrial fisheries with change in temperature, or sea level rise with artisanal fisheries, marine litter, change in sediment load and introduced alien species. CC generally intensified the effects of LS at species level. At trophic groups and ecosystem levels, the effects of CC either intensified or mitigated the effects of other HS depending on the trophic groups or the environmental conditions involved, thus suggesting that the combined effects of CC and LS are context-dependent and vary among and within ecosystems. Our results highlight that large-scale assessments on the spatial interaction and combined effects of CC and LS remain limited. More importantly, our results strengthen the urgent need of CEAs to capture local-scale effects of stressors that can exacerbate climate-induced changes. Ultimately, this will allow identifying management measures that aid counteracting CC effects at relevant scales.

Original languageEnglish
Article number142564
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - 10 Feb 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This article is based upon work from COST Action 15121 ‘Advancing marine conservation in the European and contiguous seas’ [MarCons ( Katsanevakis et al., 2017 ); http://www.marcons-cost.eu ] – supported by COST ( European Cooperation in Science and Technology , CA15121 ). EG partially acknowledges also funding from the project PORTODIMARE “geoPORtal of TOols & Data for sustaInable Management of coAstal and maRine Environment” (2018–2020), Adriatic-Ionian Programme INTERREG V B Transnational 2014–2020, grant no. 205 ; MC partially from the EU Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement no 817578 (TRIATLAS project).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Authors


  • Adaptation and mitigation to climate change
  • Cumulative effect assessment
  • Ecosystem-based management
  • Multiple stressors
  • Spatially explicit assessment
  • Systematic review

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Environmental Chemistry
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Pollution


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