Marine Protected Areas in a Changing Climate

marshy wetland
CLIMATE CHANGE AND MPAs - MPAs provide long term protection to important marine and coastal ecosystems that provide a wide range of benefits, including as natural solutions to climate impacts through mitigation, adaptation and resilience, complementing essential efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
person looking through binoculars
Glacier Bay. Credit: T. VandenBerg/NPS

Climate change is having a profound impact on ocean ecosystems. We are already seeing impacts such as increased ocean temperatures, sea level rise, altered weather patterns, changes in ocean currents, melting sea ice and the effects of ocean acidification. These impacts will be felt by ecosystems already affected by existing stressors on the marine environment such as overfishing, habitat loss and land-based sources of pollution. In light of these impacts, MPAs are being increasingly recognized as a key tool for maintaining and restoring ecosystem resilience in a changing climate.  MPAs can also provide long term protection for habitats including salt marsh, seagrasses, mangroves, and kelp forests that act as "blue carbon" - ocean and coastal ecosystems and processes that draw down and store significant amounts of carbon.

The MPA Center is working with other climate and MPA programs to provide information, tools and capacity building to address climate change impacts in the ocean through an ecosystem-based, adaptive approach.

mpa building resilience to climate impacts infographic
This infographic (2018) summarizes how climate change is impacting the ocean and how marine protected areas can help address climate impacts. See infographic in Spanish.

International Partnership

In 2021, the United States, United Kingdom, Chile, Costa Rica, and France announced a new global partnership to advance the role of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as a nature-based solution in the fight against climate change. The announcement came ahead of the United Nations climate change (COP 26) and biodiversity (COP 15) conferences. The partnership participated in these international events and plans to continue to be a presence in such international meetings.

Resources from the MPA Center

Resources from our Partners

Impacts

Assessment

  • Rapid Vulnerability Assessment Tool (Commission for Environmental Cooperation, 2017)

Adaptation

MPA Networks

Cultural Resources

Climate Change Adaptation Training

The MPA Center partners with other MPA and coastal management programs to provide training on climate change adaptation.

Climate Change Websites