- Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are areas of the ocean set aside for long-term conservation aims.
- MPAs support climate change adaptation and mitigation while providing other ecosystem services.
- Currently 6.35% of the ocean is protected, but only just over 1.89% is covered by exclusively no-take MPAs.
- Most existing MPAs do not have enough human and financial resources to properly implement conservation and management measures.
- Increased political commitments can help boost the governance of and resources available to MPAs.
Establishing MPA networks is critical to maintaining climate change resilience and rebuilding ecological and social resilience. For example, MPAs that protect coastal habitats such as barrier islands, coral reefs, mangroves and wetlands reduce human vulnerability in the face of climate change and provide the natural infrastructure (e.g. storm protection) on which people rely.
Strictly protected MPA networks in coastal carbon habitats (mangroves, seagrasses, salt marshes) can ensure that no new emissions arise from the loss and degradation of these areas. At the same time, they stimulate new carbon sequestration through the restoration of degraded coastal habitats.
MPAs, while not impervious to all climate change impacts, provide areas of reduced stress, improving the ability of marine organisms to adapt to climate change. Well-integrated MPA networks can increase species survival by allowing them to move around and escape certain pressures. In addition, MPAs where stressors are controlled can be used as sentinel (research) sites to help track the effects of climate change. This is consistent with the research and systematic observation obligations of countries under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and other international agreements.