Management implications for marine protected areas in a changing climate
As the presence, quality or composition of features change, managers may want to consider the following options to ensure that legislation is being implemented in a way that is adaptive to climate change:
Where a marine protected area is designated for multiple features and one or more features are lost then the marine protected area designation may need to be revised.
Example: Small Isles NCMPA
The Small Isles Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area in Scotland is designated for burrowed mud, circalittoral sand and mud communities, horse mussel beds, northern sea fan and sponge communities, shelf deeps, black guillemot, fan mussel aggregations, northern feather star aggregations on mixed substrata and white cluster anemones. These features are likely to respond to climate change differently: from no change (e.g. shelf deep features) to loss of a feature (e.g. horse mussel beds).
If the quality of a feature changes (improves or deteriorates), then adaptive management measures may need to be considered.
Seagrass beds are expected to benefit from the increased availability of CO2 for photosynthesis, stimulating growth. This could lead to an increased extent of the feature which may require different management strategies.
Where a marine protected area is abandoned, but the feature still exists in UK waters, alternative marine protected areas may need to be designated.
Maerl beds are found off the southern and western coasts of Britain and Ireland, as far north as Shetland, and are particularly well developed around the Scottish islands and in sea loch narrows, around Orkney, and in the south in the Fal Estuary. Depending on both the species and the climate change driver (i.e. temperature, acidification) maerl beds could be lost from the north or south of the UK. To ensure network coherence and protection of maerl beds, additional marine protected areas in the UK may need to be designated for this habitat (see green stars on map) or the habitat could be added as a designated feature to existing marine protected areas (see blue triangles on map).
Known maerl beds designated within marine protected areas
Known maerl beds within marine protected areas, but not designated
Known maerl beds outside marine protected areas
Information contained here has been derived from data that is made available under the European Marine Observation Data Network (EMODnet) Seabed Habitats project (www.emodnet-seabedhabitats.eu), funded by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE).
If the composition of a feature changes, then adaptive management measures may need to be considered.
Example: Wintering waterfowl
Even if wintering waterfowl do not shift their range under climate change, their preferred food source may, meaning that they have to switch prey. Consequently, management plans will need to safeguard a variety of food sources and perhaps reduce human pressures.
Where a designated feature expands in range, additional marine protected areas for that feature may need to be considered.
Example: Pink sea fan and red sea fingers
Habitats characterised by southern species such as the pink sea fan Eunicella verrucosa and red sea fingers Alcyonium glomeratum could increase in extent in response to warming seas. Management responses could include adding the feature to an existing, or creating a new, marine protected area.
Where a marine protected area is designated for a single feature and that feature is lost, then the marine protected area may need to be abandoned.
Example: Lesser sandeel
Sandeels are the only designated feature of Turbot Bank Nature Conservation Marine Protected Area. The Bank is important for sandeels, particularly the lesser sand eel (Ammodytes marinus). In British waters this species is at risk from climate change and populations may decline in the future with a warming climate. This could lead to the loss of this species from marine protected areas, such as Turbot Bank.