Scottish MPAs and climate change

21 Nov 2012

University of Glasgow researcher Charlotte Hopkins introduces a fascinating aspect of Marine Protected Areas and explores current thinking about how MPAs might mitigate the effects of climate change…

With the Scottish Marine Protected Area (MPA) Project firmly underway it will become increasingly important to understand how marine protected areas will perform in future scenarios of climate change. How will climate change affect MPAs and are we planning for it?

Impacts on the oceans from climate change, such as melting sea ice and the plight of polar bears, or rising sea temperatures and coral bleaching, are well publicised. However, climate change is also affecting the functioning of marine ecosystems in other ways; sea level rise, changes in weather patterns and changes in ocean currents are also altering ocean conditions. Species shifting their distribution in response to these changes may not be protected by traditional marine protected areas.

Although marine protected areas cannot guard against alterations in sea temperature for example, through reducing other stressors such as overfishing MPAs may mitigate the effects of climate change and are still an important long-term conservation tool.

Questions about marine protected areas and climate change are only just being addressed and current planning and management regimes may not be able to cope with the pressures of climate change. Managers will need to think strategically with carefully designed socioeconomic and conservation goals. Monitoring and adaptive management will be key facets in promoting climate change resilience and ecological integrity.

As a PhD student I will be aiming to answer some of the important management and policy questions of marine protected areas in the context of climate change. MPAs have been delivering results worldwide and using the vast experience from international examples will be key to understanding how climate change considerations can be applied to the Scottish process.

This PhD will be supported by Climate XChange (CXC) to provide timely information relating to MPAs and climate change. I am working closely with the Centre for Sustainable Coasts a joint initiative between the James Hutton Institute (JHI) and SAMS addressing marine policy in Scotland.

For updates, check out Charlotte Hopkin’s blog – Bonnie Buoyancy.

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