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Incorporating Climate Change into Marine Protected Area Network Planning


Diversity in an ecosystem—ranging from the number of species that it supports, to the number of different age levels that are present for each species—provides resilience to impacts such as those resulting from climate change. Since intensive fishing tends to reduce all aspects of diversity in an ecosystem, the use of marine protected areas (MPAs) where no fishing is allowed can help to buffer marine species and habitats against the impacts of climate change, and is an important aspect of climate adaptation efforts. This project aims to develop methods for incorporating climate change considerations into the planning process for setting up MPAs.

Results: Researchers conducted a Climate Change Vulnerability Assessment (CCVA). The vulnerabilities of 39 key fish and invertebrate species were assessed based on the projected patterns of warming for the next 20 to 50 years. The species were divided into three categories: high, medium, and low vulnerability.

Projected habitat changes (loss or gain) for each species in various climate change scenarios were assessed. They were considered along with relative vulnerabilities in order to inform priorities in the design of the MPA network and to determine the degree to which climate change considerations affect MPA network design.

Results from this project will inform MPA planning for the Scotian Shelf region. Planners may choose to prioritize the habitats of species that are either resistant to or not vulnerable to warming (e.g., Herring, Thorny Skate, Turbot, redfish, Spiny Dogfish, Halibut, Cusk, Witch Flounder, and hake species based on the preliminary results of CCVA). Because these species are likely to persist under climate change conditions, protecting their habitat through MPAs may be more beneficial than protecting the habitats of species that are vulnerable to warming and may not inhabit the region in future (e.g., Snow Crab, Atlantic Cod, Winter Skate, Smooth Skate, Little Skate, Atlantic Wolffish, Capelin, Sandlance, Moustache Sculpin, Ocean Pout, and American plaice). The results of this project are included in a technical report, a scientific publication, and documentation to support future MPA planning.

Program Name

Aquatic Climate Change Adaptation Services Program (ACCASP)


Atlantic: Gulf of Maine, Scotian Shelf

Principal Investigator(s)

Nancy Shackell
Fisheries and Oceans Canada

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