International review finds that protected areas are good for adaptation to global warming as well as preventing overfishing and pollution

A cave in Poor Knights Marine Reserve, New Zealand (Pic: Flickr/Julien Carnot)

Marine reserves are helping ecosystems adapt to the impacts of global warming, as well as protecting against overfishing and pollution. That is the finding of a research review published in the journal PNAS.

Matt Rand, director of the Pew Bertarelli Ocean Legacy project, which supported part of the research, said: “Marine reserves are climate reserves.”

The international study found that reserves help marine ecosystems and people adapt to five harmful consequences of climate change: ocean acidification; sea-level rise; the increased intensity of storms; shifts in species distribution, and decreased productivity and availability of oxygen.

Reserves also can also help to increase the long-term storage of carbon from greenhouse gas emissions, especially in coastal wetlands, which helps to reduce the rate of climate change, the study found.

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The lead author, Professor Callum Roberts of the University of York, UK, said: “Many studies show that well-managed marine reserves can protect wildlife and support productive fisheries, but we wanted to explore this body of research through the lens of climate change to see whether these benefits could help ameliorate or slow its impacts.

“It was soon quite clear that they can offer the ocean ecosystem and people critical resilience benefits to rapid climate change.”

Only 3.5 % of the world’s oceans has so…