Marine Conservation in a Changing Climate

Even without the threat of climate change, destructive fishing practices, massive coastal development, movement of invasive species and new diseases degrade global marine environments. Marine organisms and ecosystems are some of the most beloved and fantastical places on the face of our planet. They house organisms that are as foreign and as beautiful as aliens from a distant world. The oceans provide us with economic industries, shipping and travel, tourism and adventure. Our generation has the responsibility to steward and protect the global ocean, even in the daunting face of a changing climate. If we do not act now, much of what we cherish about the ocean will vanish.

The question that naturally arises is how? How do we protect marine ecosystems when we are only beginning to understand how these places function? How do we combat such a vast process as climate change when we still are unsure how it will change our world in the next 100 years? These are questions that all marine conservationists ask themselves. And while answers to these questions may not be readily apparent, they are extremely important.

Climate change in the ocean can be addressed with the same effective tools as many other threats to marine life. The establishment of global networks of no-take marine reserves is an important step. Ecosystems that are healthy and robust will have a greater capacity to withstand and show resiliency in the face of oncoming climate change. By improving the quality and quantity of marine protected areas globally, the Blue Park Awards - the institute's largest initiative- will conserve marine biodiversity in our rapidly changing climate.

Adaptive management is critical. Managers and scientists need the capacity to react progressively to changing oceanographic regimes, coral bleaching and other climate-generated processes. Predictive capacity also needs to be developed. Global climate models, oceanographic models and predictive sea surface temperature and sea level rise maps are incredible tools to help conservationists target the most immediately threatened ecosystems and organisms.

Marine Conservation Institute is working hard to develop the new tools, such as Blue Parks and predictive habitat models, that are necessary in a future of progressive climate change. With the help of other conservation organizations, policy makers, marine managers and scientists, Marine Conservation Institute is working at the forefront of the new field of global climate conservation and advocacy. The preservation of ocean systems is critical for the health of our planet in the future.