Climate change and cetacean health: impacts and future directions

Anna Kebke, Filipa Samarra, Davina Derous* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
29 Downloads (Pure)


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 due to Arctic meltwater and increased rainfall events leading to higher rates of land-based runoff in downstream coastal areas.
These persistent and mobile contaminants (PMCs) 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.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20210249
Number of pages10
JournalPhilosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1854
Early online date16 May 2022
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jul 2022

Bibliographical note

We would like to thank Dr Jo Kershaw for paper recommendations and insightful comments. We would also like to thank two anonymous reviewers for very helpful feedback on the manuscript that helped improve it.

Data Availability Statement

This article has no additional data.


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


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