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Climate Change Ecology
Volume 3, 2022, 100054

A review of climate change effects on marine mammals in United States waters: Past predictions, observed impacts, current research and conservation imperatives

Frances M.D. Gullanda,b, Jason D. Bakerc, Marian Howea

Marine Mammal Commission, 4340 East-West Highway, Room 700, Bethesda, MD 20814, USA.


We consider the current evidence of climate change effects on marine mammals that occur in U.S. waters relative to past predictions. Compelling cases of such effects have been documented, though few studies have confirmed population-level impacts on abundance or vital rates. While many of the observed effects had been predicted, some unforeseen and relatively acute consequences have also been documented. Effects often occur when climate-induced alterations are superimposed upon marine mammals’ ecological (e.g., predator-prey) relationships or coincident human activities. As they were unanticipated, some of the unpredicted effects of climate change have strained the ability of existing conservation and management systems to respond effectively. The literature is replete with cases suggestive of climate change impacts on marine mammals, but which remain unconfirmed. This uncertainty is partially explained by insufficient research and monitoring designed to reveal the connections. Detecting and mitigating the impacts of climate change will require some realignment of research and monitoring priorities, coupled with rapid and flexible management that includes both conventional and novel conservation interventions.

Keywords: Marine mammal, Climate change, Research, Conservation, Management.

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