Designing Marine Protected Areas In A Changing Climate

Climate change is throwing a monkey wrench into conservation.

In the ocean, water is warming and becoming more acidic. At the poles, sea ice is melting. And across the globe, currents are changing pace or direction.

Combined, the effects of climate change are “putting ocean life through a blender,” says Malin Pinsky, an ecologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey. “It’s rearranging where the species are, rearranging which species are found together, changing food webs, changing ecosystems.”

Climate change is making the standard method of protecting vulnerable species—closing their critical habitat to destructive human activities such as fishing or oil drilling—much more complicated.

Animals are responding to climate change in a number of ways. Some are adapting physically, while others are changing their reproductive behaviors or migrating, seeking out conditions that suit them. In North America, important food animals such as flounder, hake, and lobster are already on the move. Combined, these changes are cascading through the food web, altering whole ecosystems.

Photo: Jakob Owens/Unsplash

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