Most current MPAs are located in coastal areas, while only 1.2 per cent of the high seas are protected
Marine Protected Areas (MPA) should be established in places where climate change is least likely to harm biodiversity, an expert said at the ongoing fifth International Marine Protected Areas Congress in Canada.
In the future, “some places will stay more similar to present conditions. We should place MPA in such areas,” Lee Hannah, a conservation ecologist and a senior researcher in Climate Change Biology at Conservation International, highlighted at the congress, which seeks to chart a path to protect 30 per cent of the ocean by 2030.
Hannah and other experts gathered at the congress to discuss the impacts of climate change on MPAs, which are designated areas managed for the long-term conservation of marine resources and ecosystem services.
Countries agreed to protect 30 per cent of the planet’s lands and oceans by 2030 at the 15th Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2022.
Climate change is driving ocean temperature and sea level rise. The waters are turning acidic, too, studies showed.
Temperatures of the top few metres of the sea have increased by approximately 0.13 degrees Celsius per decade over the past 100 years, according to the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Hannah and his colleagues found that 6-12 per cent of the water column in the high seas will be less affected by the changing climate. “These will be great places to have benchmark MPAs,” he said.
The expert called for efforts to establish and deploy science-based decision-support tools to ensure that 18 million square kilometres of new MPAs are climate-smart.
Most current MPAs are located in coastal areas, while only 1.2 per cent of the high seas are protected. High seas are regions that are not controlled by any country.
Further, Steven Mana‘oakamai Johnson, a postdoctoral fellow at Cornell University, highlighted that up to 87 per cent of the ocean will see significant changes by 2100
By the end of the century, novel environments will likely emerge in the ocean. For a given place, we may foresee a shift in the average conditions, he explained.
Novelty is more pronounced in the tropics and the Arctic, he wrote in his 2021 study published in One Earth.
His analysis also found that very large MPAs (greater than 75,000 square kilometres) will differ from the present state.
A changing environment impacts species and the food web. “Some species, he explained, could respond quickly or slowly or show an odd-behaviour. We want to take this and apply to MPAs,” he said at the congress.
Vincenzo Corelli, Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique, studied management plans worldwide to create a database of current actions for MPA to adapt to climate change.
He found a clear biodiversity adaptation gap in the current management plans. “Lots of actions discovered are not related to biodiversity conservation,” he said, adding that nationally-mandated policies are essential.
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