The structure of all communities varies in space and time in response to many physical and biological factors, and the extent to which these different factors influence ecosystem function is one of the fundamental issues of ecosystem ecology and in fisheries research field. Coastal areas are within the most productive ecosystems in the world and play a crucial role as nursery grounds for the larval and juvenile phases of fish and invertebrate species economically exploited. As our knowledge of the marine environment improves and our concern about the state of marine ecosystems and about global change increases, the scope of our decision to deal with anthropogenic effects and climate changes needs to be widened. An important principle of environmental science is that changes in single components of systems are likely to have consequences elsewhere in the same systems. The evidence that environmental factors (hydrological and oceanographic) cause long-term and large-scale variability in fish stocks is growing, but it would be a mistake to conclude that the effects of fishing are, therefore, less important. This relation has, so far, failed to be demonstrated and integrated in the sustainable management of coastal fisheries and consequently on develop adaptation actions to face climate change. Evidence of the impacts of anthropogenic climate change on marine ecosystems is accumulating but must be evaluated in the context of the “normal” climate cycles and variability which have caused fluctuations in fisheries throughout human history.
The impacts on fisheries are due to a variety of direct and indirect effects of a number of physical and chemical factors, which include temperature, winds, vertical mixing, salinity, oxygen, pH and others. The direct effects act on the physiology, development rates, reproduction, behaviour and survival of individuals and can in some cases be studied experimentally and in controlled conditions. However, vulnerability assessment is increasingly developed and utilized in various sectors and fields of society such as fisheries. This framework provides a better understanding of the interactions among system, pressures, and threats, which serves as a basis for targeted adaptation strategies. Therefore, it allows determine climatic effects on fish that will have social and economic consequences for people dependent on fisheries – from workers to coastal communities to consumers of fish.
Fisheries policy makers need to develop adaptation strategies that take into account the economic consequences of climate change – strategies that must themselves be adaptable to the uncertainty of climate change. Climate change will affect fisheries, fish stocks and coastal communities, but the form and extent of these impacts are uncertain. In CLIMFISH projects scientists will evaluate the vulnerability of the fish to the climate change at ecological, social-economic level.