Climate change and cetacean health: impacts and future directions

Anna Kebke, Filipa Isabel Pereira Samarra, Davina Derous*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Climate change directly impacts the foraging opportunities of cetaceans (e.g. lower prey availability), leads to habitat loss, and forces cetaceans to move to other feeding grounds. The rise in ocean temperature, low prey availability and loss of habitat can have severe consequences for cetacean survival, particularly those species that are already threatened or those with a limited habitat range. In addition, it is predicted that the concentration of contaminants in aquatic environments will increase owing to Arctic meltwater and increased rainfall events leading to higher rates of land-based runoff in downstream coastal areas. These persistent and mobile contaminants can bioaccumulate in the ecosystem, and lead to ecotoxicity with potentially severe consequences on the reproductive organs, immune system and metabolism of marine mammals. There is a need to measure and assess the cumulative impact of multiple stressors, given that climate change, habitat alteration, low prey availability and contaminants do not act in isolation. Human-caused perturbations to cetacean foraging abilities are becoming a pervasive and prevalent threat to many cetacean species on top of climate change-associated stressors. We need to move to a greater understanding of how multiple stressors impact the metabolism of cetaceans and ultimately their population trajectory. This article is part of the theme issue 'Nurturing resilient marine ecosystems'.

Original languageEnglish
Article number20210249
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1854
Publication statusPublished - 2022

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society. All rights reserved.

Other keywords

  • cetaceans
  • climate change
  • health
  • marine mammals
  • metabolism


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