Solutions for ecosystem-level protection of ocean systems under climate change

Ana M. Queirós*, Klaus B. Huebert, Friedemann Keyl, Jose A. Fernandes, Willem Stolte, Marie Maar, Susan Kay, Miranda C. Jones, Katell G. Hamon, Gerrit Hendriksen, Youen Vermard, Paul Marchal, Lorna R. Teal, Paul J. Somerfield, Melanie C. Austen, Manuel Barange, Anne F. Sell, Icarus Allen, Myron A. Peck

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

48 Citations (Scopus)


The Paris Conference of Parties (COP21) agreement renewed momentum for action against climate change, creating the space for solutions for conservation of the ocean addressing two of its largest threats: 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 oversimplistic at this time when dynamic solutions for the
management of changing oceans are needed. We propose a novel approach, based on spatial meta-analysis of climate impact models, to improve the positioning of marine protected areas to limit CCOA impacts. We do this by estimating the vulnerability of ocean ecosystems to CCOA in a spatially explicit manner and then co-mapping human activities such as the placement of renewable energy developments and the distribution of marine protected areas. We test this approach in the NE Atlantic considering also how CCOA impacts the base of the food web which supports protected species, an aspect often neglected in conservation studies. We found that, in this case, current regional conservation plans protect areas with low ecosystem-level vulnerability to CCOA, but disregard how species may redistribute to new, suitable and productive habitats. Under current plans, these areas remain open to commercial
extraction and other uses. Here, and worldwide, ocean conservation strategies under CCOA must recognize the longterm importance of these habitat refuges, and studies such as this one are needed to identify them. Protecting these
areas creates adaptive, climate-ready and ecosystem-level policy options for conservation, suitable for changing oceans.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3927-3936
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • climate change
  • conservation
  • COP21
  • ecosystem model
  • habitat
  • marine spatial planning
  • ocean
  • ocean acidification
  • species distribution
  • warming


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