Background/Question/Methods The world is currently deciding how much of the planet should remain natural. A target will be decided in the CBD discussions that will culminate here in Montreal in a few months. 30% of land and waters conserved is the likely target, though many ecologists feel that less than half risks serious ecological and human harm. On land, that target requires increasing conserved areas by about one third. In the oceans, where up until 2000 virtually no area was in protection, hitting the 30% goal requires a generational increase in conserved area.
This increase in MPAs represents a tremendous opportunity to ensure the conservation of all marine species. Yet representing all species in MPAs is challenging due to the mobility of many marine species and ecosystems. Climate change is imposing long-term change on top of this existing variability. Can MPAs capture these dynamics and conserve all marine species with so many species on the move?
Results/Conclusions MPA creation is unfolding at record pace. Researchers are racing to provide climate change information to inform this process. The real world scope for that information to impact conservation decision making is narrow. While wholesale transformation of marine ecosystems has not taken place in the same way that terrestrial ecosystems have been destroyed, there are fisheries, mining and other claims on ocean resources that can preclude conservation in many areas given the consensual, multi-national governance structures currently in place.
The system of ocean fronts that extends from Eastern Canada to south of Greenland provides an example of these challenges. One MPA has been designated in the European-controlled jurisdictional area in the north central Atlantic. The species targeted in this MPA are seabirds which are feeding in the productivity of the many ocean fronts in the MPA. However, climate change analyses suggest that these fronts will change in intensity and location due to alterations in currents driven by changes in ocean circulation and glacial meltwater entering the North Atlantic. Complementary MPAs in Northwest Atlantic and Canadian jurisdictions would help ensure that adequate ocean front habitat is available for seabirds moving to track these changes. Whether the real-world conditions that made the existing MPA possible will exist in the NW Atlantic and Canadian jurisdictions is unclear. The opportunities for conserving species on the move in the oceans are once-in-a-lifetime, but the challenges are as diverse as the existing uses of the oceans.