95th ESA Annual Meeting (August 1 -- 6, 2010)

SYMP 1 -8 - Marine conservation planning in a changing world

Monday, August 2, 2010: 4:00 PM
Blrm A, David L Lawrence Convention Center
Leah R. Gerber, Center for Biodiversity Outcomes, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ, Eddie Game, Global Science, The Nature Conservancy, Brisbane, Australia, Mary O'Connor, Zoology, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada, Elizabeth R. Selig, Conservation International and Steven D. Gaines, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, Santa Barbara, CA

Global climate change has the potential to alter the spatial structure of ecosystems. Ecosystem management efforts are generally spatially explicit, setting up a potential conflict between the effectiveness of management today and in the future.  Theoretical models project that changing spatial structure of communities could alter their composition and distribution. Such analyses can inform management over the coming decades. To illustrate the impact on management decisions of the effects of climate change on the abundance and distribution of habitat patches as well as connectivity among them, we apply marine reserve theory to the challenge of managing marine ecosystems in the face of global climate change. We highlight two ecological examples of how theory can inform marine ecosystem management in a changing world: 1) ocean acidification, and 2) temperature and development time. First, we ask how would inclusion of information on ocean acidification alter the decisions recommended by established marine reserve theory.  We examine a range of predicted changes in the spatial distribution of coral species due to acidification and warming. Using resulting maps of “coral refuges”, we demonstrate how considering projected future distributions might change present day decisions about conservation priority. Second, we model predicted changes in connectivity of marine species associated with warming oceans and acidification.  Because the scale of dispersal for many marine organisms may be influenced by temperature, the connectivity between distant habitat patches may be reduced with warming. We consider alternate prioritization schemes to illustrate how acidification and warming can be incorporated in conservation planning efforts.


We show that management schemes may need to consider the time scale of conservation goals.  For example, management could prioritize climate refugia, or could prioritize based on how many areas we need to protect to be 90% confident that corals will persist.  Our results demonstrate that incorporating climate change in rigorous marine reserve theory alters the decisions we make to meet our conservation goals. Because the magnitude of this change depends on our confidence in model projections, an important priority in marine conservation planning in a world of climate change is to establish mechanisms to learn most rapidly from our current decisions. We present a framework to integrate these different consequences of warming on ocean ecosystems into systematic conservation planning for marine systems.