Scientific publication

Climate change challenges Marine Protected Areas in Europe

Credits: Photo by Verminaard on GoodFon

Our latest research addresses a critical concern for marine conservation: the impact of projected climate change on Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in Europe. As climate change progresses, the effectiveness of MPAs in preserving marine species and habitats may be significantly challenged. Our study evaluates how 398 threatened and commercially important species within European MPAs could be affected by novel climatic conditions through the end of the 21st century.

Key findings: It’s all about the Paris Agreement

Using multivariate analyses, we assessed the future exposure to changes in temperature, oxygen, pH, and primary productivity under two different climate scenarios: a low emission scenario (SSP1–1.9) and a high emission scenario (SSP5–8.5). Our findings are concerning:

Under the low emission scenario (SSP1–1.9):

Approximately 6.5% of species and 0.5% of European MPAs may face risk from novel climatic conditions. Under the high emission scenario (SSP5–8.5):

A staggering 87% of MPAs and 80% of species are projected to be at risk. Particularly vulnerable regions include enclosed and semi-enclosed seas like the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, where nearly all species could be exposed to novel or extremely novel conditions.

In contrast, areas such as the Norwegian Sea, North-East Atlantic, and western parts of the Mediterranean and North Seas are expected to be less impacted.

Why this matters?

This research underscores the urgent need for enhanced conservation efforts and innovative governance strategies to protect marine biodiversity. Our results suggest that current marine governance in Europe may not be sufficient to ensure the resilience and effectiveness of MPAs in the face of climate change. Consequently, it is imperative to meet the targets set by the Paris Agreement and develop forward-thinking approaches to marine conservation.

We hope this study will inform and inspire policymakers, conservationists, and the public about the importance of proactive measures to safeguard our marine ecosystems for future generations.

Main reference

Predragovic, M., Assis, J., Sumaila, U.R. et al. Up to 80% of threatened and commercial species across European marine protected areas face novel climates under high emission scenario. npj Ocean Sustain 3, 32 (2024).

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Jorge Assis [PhD, Associate Researcher]
Centre of Marine Sciences, University of Algarve [Faro, Portugal]
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