A Strategy for Response to Climate Change in Marine Conservation

by Weronika Konwent

     An effect of global warming is an increase in sea-surface temperatures (SST), which impacts the distribution and range of corals. As temperatures increase, coral distribution will shift poleward. This is problematic because current marine protected areas do not take into account the distribution effects of climate change. Continual shifting of MPAs as conditions worsen is more than likely to meet political and logistical roadblocks. Makino et al (2014) established an integrative system by which to determine priority selection of habitats for MPAs. This research aims to create a process through which climate change can be factored into subsequent MPA planning, and will cater to coral distribution trends not only now but in the future as well.

A program called Marxan is used to design MPAs that will be most cost efficient, and therefore most likely to be implemented, and most connective in terms of time and space. The benefit of such an approach is its versatility – Marxan can be used to create sites in any place, at any geographic scale, and at any time. This is powerful because of the usability of such a tool by governments and organizations worldwide. With it, researchers hope that the designation of effective MPAs, even when faced with lack of substantial data, can prove up to the job of tackling the dynamic, rapid, and destructive effects of climate change on the marine environment.

Makino, A., Yamano, H., Beger, M., et al. 2014. Spatio-temporal marine conservation planning to support high-latitude coral range expansion under climate change. Diversity and Distributions, 20, 859–871. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/ddi.12184/full

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