Perceptions of practitioners: Managing marine protected areas for climate change resilience

Charlotte Rachael Hopkins, David Mark Bailey, Tavis Potts

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)
18 Downloads (Pure)


Climate change is impacting upon global marine ecosystems and ocean wide changes in ecosystem properties are expected to continue. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been implemented as a conservation tool throughout the world, primarily as a measure to reduce local impacts, but their usefulness and effectiveness is strongly related to climate change. MPAs may have a role in mitigation through effects on carbon sequestration, affect interactions between climatic effects and other drivers and be affected themselves as the distributions of protected species change over time. However, to date, few MPA programmes have directly considered climate change in the design, management or monitoring of an MPA network. This paper presents a series of international case studies from four locations: British Columbia, Canada; central California, USA; the Great Barrier Reef, Australia and the Hauraki Gulf, New Zealand; to review perceptions of how climate change has been considered in the design, implementation, management and monitoring of MPAs. The results indicate that some MPA processes have already incorporated design criteria or principles for adaptive management, which address some of the potential impacts of climate change on MPAs. Key lessons include: i) Strictly protected marine reserves are considered essential for climate change resilience and will be necessary as scientific reference sites to understand climate change effects ii) Adaptive management of MPA networks is important but hard to implement iii) Strictly protected reserves managed as ecosystems are the best option for an uncertain future. Although the case studies addressed aspects of considering climate change within MPA networks and provided key lessons for the practical inclusion of these considerations, there are some significant challenges remaining. This paper provides new insights into the policy and practical challenges MPA managers face under climate change scenarios.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)18-28
Number of pages10
JournalOcean & Coastal Management
Early online date4 May 2016
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2016

Bibliographical note

This research was supported and funded by ClimateXChange. ClimateXChange is a collaborative initiative between Scottish research and higher education institutes and is funded by the Scottish Government. The authors would like to thank all the participants who agreed to be interviewed for this study. Ethics approval number 2013001 from University of Glasgow.


  • adaptive management
  • climate change
  • conservation
  • marine protected areas
  • resilience


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