The Paris Conference of the Parties (COP21) agreement renewed momentum for action against climate change, creating the space for solutions for conservation of the ocean addressing climate change and ocean acidification (CCOA). Recent arguments that ocean policies disregard a mature conservation research field and that protected areas cannot address climate change may be over-simplistic at this time when dynamic solutions for the management of changing oceans are needed.
This study proposes a novel approach, based on spatial meta-analysis of climate impact models, to improve the positioning of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to limit CCOA impacts. This is done by estimating the vulnerability of ocean ecosystems to CCOA in a spatially explicit manner ant then co-mapping human activities such as the placement of renewable energy developments and the distribution of MPAs.
The results of the case study (NE Atlantic) show that current conservation plans protect areas with low ecosystem-level vulnerability to CCOA, but disregard how species may redistribute to new, suitable and productive habitats in the future. These areas remain open to commercial extraction and other uses such as energy exploration under current plans. It is concluded that under CCOA conservation strategies must recognize the long-term importance of these habitat refuges, highlighting the need to identify them. The authors highlight that protecting these areas creates adaptive, climate-ready and ecosystem-level policy options for conservation, suitable for changing oceans.
Queiros AM, Huebert KB, Keyl F, Fernandes JA, Stolte W, Maar M, Kay S, Jones MC, Hamon KG, Hendriksen G, Vermard Y, Marchal P, Teal LR, Somerfield PJ, Austen MC, Barange M, Sell AF, Allen I, Peck MA (2016) Solutions for ecosystem-level protection of ocean systems under climate change. Global Change Biology 22:3927-3936