Marine reserves can mitigate and promote adaptation to climate change

Callum M. Roberts, Bethan C. O’Leary, Douglas J. McCauley, Philippe Maurice Cury, Carlos M. Duarte, Jane Lubchenco, Daniel Pauly, Andrea Sáenz-Arroyo, Ussif Rashid Sumaila, Rod W. Wilson, Boris Worm, Juan Carlos Castilla

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

395 Scopus citations


Strong decreases in greenhouse gas emissions are required to meet the reduction trajectory resolved within the 2015 Paris Agreement. However, even these decreases will not avert serious stress and damage to life on Earth, and additional steps are needed to boost the resilience of ecosystems, safeguard their wildlife, and protect their capacity to supply vital goods and services. We discuss how well-managed marine reserves may help marine ecosystems and people adapt to five prominent impacts of climate change: acidification, sea-level rise, intensification of storms, shifts in species distribution, and decreased productivity and oxygen availability, as well as their cumulative effects. We explore the role of managed ecosystems in mitigating climate change by promoting carbon sequestration and storage and by buffering against uncertainty in management, environmental fluctuations, directional change, and extreme events. We highlight both strengths and limitations and conclude that marine reserves are a viable low-tech, cost-effective adaptation strategy that would yield multiple cobenefits from local to global scales, improving the outlook for the environment and people into the future.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6167-6175
Number of pages9
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Issue number24
StatePublished - Jun 5 2017

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2020-10-01
Acknowledgements: We thank Ivan Gromicho, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, for drawing Fig. 1. We also thank the editors and reviewers for their helpful comments which much improved the manuscript. B.C.O. and C.M.R. are supported by The Pew Charitable Trusts. D.J.M. is supported by the Benioff Ocean Initiative. J.C.C. received support from Project CCM RC 130004 of the Iniciativa Cientifica Milenio, Ministerio de Economia, Chile. C.M.D. was supported by the Baseline Fund of King Abdullah University of Science and Technology. D.P. receives support from the Paul G. Allen Family Foundation through the Sea Around Us Project of the University of British Columbia. U.R.S. is Project Director of the OceanCanada Partnership, which receives support from the Social Science and Humanities Research Council of Canada. R.W.W. is supported by the Natural Environment Research Council and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council in the United Kingdom.


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