To Conserve Marine Species, Make Protected Areas Mobile

Scientific American –

Take a good look at the oceans today—there’s a strong chance they won’t look the same in a few decades, scientists say.

As water temperatures rise around the world, some marine animals are already migrating to other areas in response. Habitats are shifting and evolving. Some species are disappearing, and others are moving in to take their place.

The ecological consequences of all these changes—and how they may alter food webs and habitats and entire communities of organisms—remain to be seen. In the meantime, scientists have identified another concern. These kinds of shifts may make it harder to protect marine animals in the future.

Today, marine protected areas are among the primary tools for conserving marine habitats and protecting threatened species. These are areas where fishing and other disturbances are supposed to be limited. They’re kind of like the ocean equivalents of national parks.

Traditionally, these protected areas are bound by geography. They cover a certain area of the ocean, and they don’t move. But now, some experts argue that shifting ocean conditions driven by climate change call for a more dynamic approach to marine conservation.

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