Climate Change and Protected Places: Adapting to New Realities

Zachary J. Cannizzo, Sara Hutto, and Lauren Wenzel
Posted on: 11/24/2020 - Updated on: 12/21/2020

Posted by

Kathryn Braddock



Marine protected areas (MPAs), like their terrestrial counterparts, face a wide range of climate change stressors that challenge traditional management strategies. Ocean acidification, dynamic boundaries, high connectivity, and other complexities create climate management challenges unique to the ocean system. Further, there is a concerning disconnect between global oceanic climate impacts and the relative lack of experience and action needed to address these stressors at local and regional scales. As climate impacts are increasingly being experienced by marine and coastal managers, they are beginning to focus on climate assessment and adaptation within the protected areas of our ocean. In this article, we share case studies and experiences of MPA managers on the cutting edge of climate adaptation. Lessons learned from the kelp forests of California and the coral reefs and seagrass meadows of the Florida Keys highlight hands-on applications of climate management and mitigation. Yet managing for climate change in a dynamic ocean requires more than direct action. We highlight the successes achieved through capacity building, community engagement, and partnership development that span geographic, institutional, and community boundaries. The dynamic nature of climate change in the ocean environment requires MPA managers to be flexible, adaptive, and inclusive to implement successful and meaningful management actions. Ultimately, the experiences highlighted in this article reflect the need for close collaboration with scientists, communities, and diverse stakeholders in identifying and implementing adaptation actions. In doing so, these case studies provide the beginning of a road map for successful climate management in MPAs.