Below are additional responses to the question of how managers can ensure MPAs remain relevant in an era of climate change, from the December 2006/January 2007 of MPA News:

* Understanding the patchiness of climate change

Rod Salm, co-author, Coral Reef Resilience and Resistance to Bleaching (, USA. E-mail:

Coral bleaching is generally patchy.  An understanding of factors explaining this patchiness can help us build resilience to climate change into our conservation programs by improving the way we select our priority conservation targets, design our MPAs and MPA networks, and define our management strategies.

MPA planners and managers can identify coral communities that consistently resist or avoid bleaching, as well as untested communities that are well positioned to resist bleaching or those that bounce back quickly from it and afford these high levels of protection (such as in no-take zones in the design of MPAs and MPA networks).  They also can develop a comprehensive reef classification, use this to identify representative coral communities, and include at least three replicates of each into no-take zones in the MPA or network design.  This helps to spread the risk of any mass bleaching event taking out the only protected/managed example of one community type.

All of this is easier to advocate in theory than it is to implement in practice.  However, given the patchy pattern of bleaching and mortality we have already witnessed, we do need some radical rethinking of our hard-earned conservation achievements to ensure that they will persist through the next 50 years of climate impacts and beyond.

Concerning sea-level rise impacts on coastal wetlands, MPA planners and managers can respond in two ways.  To enable these wetlands to march inland as sea level rises, they can include adjacent low-lying lands into MPAs and address development of such areas through land-use planning and integrated coastal management.  They can also develop understanding of the hydrological regimes, including both freshwater and sediment budgets, affecting wetlands and ensure adequate flows into these systems.


* Establishing resilient networks

Jerker Tamelander, IUCN Global Marine Programme, Tanzania. E-mail:

MPA planners and managers need to focus on managing ecosystems in a way that can increase their capacity to withstand impacts/extreme events as well as increase their ability to adapt.  Resilience principles are emerging as a useful framework for addressing this, including both as a tool for identification of important areas for special protection as well as approaches to management.  This entails, for example, identifying areas that are protected from impact or are naturally resilient, resistant, or tolerant to change due to biological or physical/oceanographic factors.  Ensuring such areas are under management that reduces or removes other anthropogenic stresses increases survival of ecosystems as well as adaptation to long-term change.  Sufficiently large areas must be protected, and connectivity between such areas ensured.

It should be noted that placing the large number of MPAs that are de facto paper parks today under sound management would in itself be an immense step forward.  However, it is also essential that resilient MPA networks are established and managed in a way that similarly increases the social and economic resilience of human societies rather than undermining it.  IUCN is addressing resilience science and management though its Climate Change and Coral Reefs Working Group (see


* Need to protect large population sizes

Kristina Gjerde, High Seas Policy Advisor, IUCN Global Marine Programme, Poland. E-mail:

To make sure MPAs are still relevant 50 years from now, we will need to employ the best of modern technology to track and model changing oceanographic conditions and shifting species ranges.

We know that large population sizes will be essential to facilitate successful adaptation.  Therefore, we will need to control human uses to allow for the protection of vital breeding, feeding and nursery grounds, and migratory corridors, recognizing that these may change over time.  We will need to develop creative legislation and employ creative managers to establish dynamic MPAs that follow the food and shifting migratory ranges.  The information can be relayed instantaneously to ocean users.


* Protecting 30% of each major marine ecosystem

Graeme Kelleher, chair, WCPA High Seas MPA Task Force, Australia. E-mail: (until 8 January 2007), (after 8 January 2007)

One of the consequences of global warming could be major shifts in oceanic currents, leading to dramatic changes in relevant oceanic conditions.  If significant areas of each ocean are not protected from damage by human activities - particularly bottom trawling and pollution - these ecosystems will lose resilience and the ability to adapt to major ecological changes flowing from climate change.  The effects on the health of the oceans, and on the whole global biosphere to which they are connected, could be very serious.  These effects could catastrophically affect human society.  Science indicates that at least 30% of each of the world's major marine ecosystems should be strictly protected from human-induced damage (by establishing strictly protected MPAs) in order to ensure ecosystem health and resilience, and biological diversity and productivity.  If 30% of the world's oceans are protected in MPAs, their contribution to the automatic establishment of new, stable ecosystems in the radically changed oceanic regions of the world would be very valuable.

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