You can think of a marine protected area like a boost of vitamin C taken at the onset of a cold. It may not cure you, but it can help you bounce back.
“A [protected] ecosystem tends to be more resistant to disturbance and it’s more resilient—it comes back faster,” says Jane Lubchenco, now a marine ecologist at Oregon State University and formally the administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “It’s not unlike your body. If you are immunocompromised, you’re much more likely to come down with a cold or flu.”
These protected ocean spaces, when defended well, won’t solve all the problems in the world’s oceans, but they might give us a fighting chance against afflictions like climate change or overfishing. Studies have shown that completely closing a portion of the ocean off to activities like fishing and drilling helps keep wildlife populations healthy and increases biodiversity.
They also make headlines—declaring MPAs has been a growing trend in the past two decades, in part because the U.N. member countries are nearing a 2020 deadline to protect 10 percent of the world’s oceans.
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