How can marine protected areas and networks help address climate change?
Work in the United States by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)* has identified that the long-term, site-based nature of marine protected areas provides a distinct advantage in addressing the impacts of climate change.
Marine protected areas do this by:
- Providing a focal area where scientific monitoring can take place and the effectiveness of management measures can be assessed.
Water sampling ‘rosette’ being retrieved from the sea © Dave Sivyer. Crown Copyright
- Providing areas where non-climate stressors can be reduced, potentially leading to beneficial effects outside of the site, such as the protection of bordering habitats and enhanced production of marine species that “spillover” into outside areas.
- Reducing risk and promoting resilience by encouraging as high levels of diversity as possible.
- Protecting habitats that can help mitigate climate change impacts by storing carbon (e.g. salt marshes and seagrass beds).
- Providing ecologically connected corridors for shifting species and habitats, with networks of marine protected areas facilitating the range shifts of populations.
- Acting as control areas or sentinel sites for the monitoring of climate change and other impacts, particularly where human activities are controlled and long-term monitoring is used to identify trends.
- Utilising the involvement of stakeholders and local communities to promote public education on marine climate change impacts.
Sea-lavender, saltmarsh creeks and pans by the Nith Estuary with Criffel beyond, Dumfries and Galloway Area. © Lorne Gill/SNH
© Crown Copyright
*Information presented on this page is based on 'Marine protected areas: Building resilience to climate change impacts (2013). Marine Protected Areas Center. NOAA. 4pp'