King's College London

Research portal

Cetaceans as sentinels for informing climate change policy in UK waters

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Michael J. Williamson, Mariel Ten Doeschate, Robert Deaville, Andrew Brownlow, Nikki Taylor

Original languageEnglish
Article number104634
Early online date10 Jun 2021
E-pub ahead of print10 Jun 2021
PublishedSep 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information: The authors would like to thank the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the Devolved Governments of Scotland and Wales for funding the Cetacean Strandings Investigation Programme as part of the UK government’s commitment to a number of international conservation agreements. This work was supported by the Natural Environment Research Council (Grant No. NE/L002485/1 ) to MW, as part of the London NERC Doctoral Training Partnership and the Research Council Policy Internships Scheme for the JNCC. Publisher Copyright: © 2021 Copyright: Copyright 2021 Elsevier B.V., All rights reserved.

King's Authors


Climate change is predicted to have profound consequences for marine ecosystems. Due to the growing political and social drive to address its impacts, monitoring and mitigating climate change is a priority in marine policy in the UK. Cetaceans have been proposed as informative sentinel species for monitoring ocean health. Here, strandings data from four UK cetacean species were assessed for their use as a tool to aid policy makers monitoring climate change in marine environments. Data on stranded cetaceans were collected from 1990 to 2018 and differences in the proportions of stranded cold water adapted and warm water adapted species assessed using Generalised Linear Models (GLM), with 6-year periods and four regions of the UK included as explanatory variables. This modelling approach showed an increase in the proportion of stranded warm water adapted species over time across the UK and that differences in proportion of strandings between cold water and warm water adapted species can be detected between regions and 6-year periods, chosen as metrics to coordinate with reporting cycles for policy assessment needs. As such, these results show the potential for utilising strandings data to identify changing oceanic trends at the appropriate spatial and temporal scales for policy reporting in the UK. However, development of these analyses with a more detailed examination of these data at a finer resolution, incorporating other data sources, such as distribution trends and dietary stable isotope data, may be required before it is applicable as an indicator for trends in changes in climate.

View graph of relations

© 2020 King's College London | Strand | London WC2R 2LS | England | United Kingdom | Tel +44 (0)20 7836 5454