Protecting the marine environment from climate change

WWF is pushing for agreements and policies that protect sensitive marine habitats and species from inevitable effects of climate change.

WWF is working for massive cuts to CO2 emissions, in order to avert dangerous climate change

Such efforts should have a positive effect on marine ecosystems in the longer term if current global warming trends can be reversed.

But even the current increases in atmospheric CO2 and average global temperatures are already impacting marine ecosystems. 

Given the inevitable effects of climate change on marine life, WWF's Global Marine Programme is pushing governments and other fora to adopt agreements, policies, or mechanisms that protect sensitive marine habitats and species from climate change.

We also co-published a manual that helps park managers assess and help mitigate the effects of climate change on protected areas.

The idea is that these strategies will help buy time for habitats and species while the world works out the only long-term solution to climate change - reducing CO2 emissions.

A group of 33 coral atolls straddling the equator in the Pacific Ocean, the Kiribati islands rise ... / ©: WWF-Canon / Cat HOLLOWAY
A group of 33 coral atolls straddling the equator in the Pacific Ocean, the Kiribati islands rise only a few metres above sea level. Two uninhabited islands have already disappeared due to sea level rise caused by global warming.
© WWF-Canon / Cat HOLLOWAY

What's the problem?

From coral bleaching to ocean acidification, the marine environment is already being impacted by climate change. Find out more...

Mitigation options for Marine Protected Areas

Buying Time: A User's Manual for Building Resistance and Resilience to Climate Change in Natural Systems presents various options for marine ecosystems.
The first of its kind, the manual gives detailed information on how to increase the resistance (ability to withstand change) and resilience (ability to recover from change) of various habitats to global warming impacts.

For example:

• Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) should be part of representative networks covering several examples of all habitats in the ecosystem, to maximize resistance and resilience to climate change.

• Human pressures such as pollution, increased sedimentation, and uncontrolled tourism should be minimized or eliminated in MPAs to reduce the overall stress placed on marine ecosystems suffering from climate change.

• MPAs should attempt to provide robust corridors or flexible boundaries so that species can migrate polewards to cooler waters.

• MPAs should include "cold spots" - natural areas that are cooler due to upwellings, shade, sub-habitats like crooks and cracks, timing of tides, etc - which may reduce thermal stress from climate change.

• MPAs should be created to protect areas that, due to strong currents, upwellings, or other oceanographic features, are less prone to temperature changes.
 
Manual: Buying Time: A User's Manual for Building Resistance and Resilience to Climate Change in Natural Systems

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