Can We “Future-Proof” Marine Conservation Planning?

Malin L. Pinsky, Rutgers University, Dept. of Ecology, Evolution, and Natural Resources, New Brunswick, NJ, United States and Lauren A. Rogers, Stanford University, Natural Capital Project, Seattle, WA, United States
Marine conservation and marine spatial planning strategies worldwide are designed around biogeographic patterns, often under the assumption that these patterns are relatively stable. With climate change, however, distributions are shifting rapidly as species seek more suitable conditions. Here, we use distribution projections from 2006-2100 for 360 marine species in North America to evaluate the effectiveness of the current marine protected area (MPA) network and to test climate-ready planning approaches. We consider both expected community changes and the uncertainty in those projections. We find that existing MPAs are likely to lose more species over the coming century than other locations on the continental shelf. We also find substantial shifts in the location of high- and low-value regions, which can complicate conservation planning. However, planning portfolios can be developed that perform much better in the face of changes expected over the coming century. The theory and practice of marine spatial planning and marine conservation can be substantially more responsive to our dynamic ocean.