Earlier this month, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) released their report ‘Developing the evidence-base to support climate-smart decision-making on MPAs’ on the finding of the Defra-funded Climate-smart MPAS project
JNCC was commissioned by Defra to develop the evidence base around climate-smart decision-making in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). The first phase of this work was a project analysing the role of MPAs and their protected features in mitigating the impacts of climate change (e.g. through the sequestration of carbon).
Working with the Marine Biological Association (MBA), the sensitivity of high priority MPA protected features to climate-related pressures was assessed and presented on the Marine Life Information Network (MarLIN) website. As part of this project, sensitivity assessments were undertaken for 36 high priority biotopes related to specific MPA features, to four climate change pressures: ocean acidification, ocean warming, marine heatwaves and sea-level rise, and against medium and high emission scenario benchmarks. The development of an approach to undertake sensitivity assessments for climate change pressures is the first of its kind and provides a methodology for assessment of additional MPA protected features based on their component biotopes in the future. For example, the report found that 52% of MPAs around England and Northern Ireland protect habitats that support resilience to climate change related pressures, while 29% of MPAs protect habitats such as coastal saltmarshes, seagrasses, salt water reed beds and muddy habitats, which support the absorption and storage of carbon dioxide.
JNCC’s project report is available on the Defra Science website and on JNCC's Resource Hub. This is supported by climate profile report cards for two study MPAs (Studland Bay and The Canyons). The report on the sensitivity assessment of climate change pressures is available under MarLIN publications.
Initial project outputs were presented at the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) COP (Conference of Parties) in Madrid in December 2019, showcasing the UK’s work on the designation of MPAs and their role in mitigating the impacts of climate change.
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