Global warming still likely to harm marine protected areas, study reports

Scientists have found that global warming is still on pace to harm the Earth's oceans.

Joseph Scalise | Oct 27, 2019

Marine protected areas might not save the ocean from global warming after all, according to new research published in Nature Climate Change.

Over the last decade a lot has been done to curb the effects of global warming on Earth's oceans. For instance, before 2008 there were only four large marine protected areas in the world. Now, there are over 30.

Such reserves work to protect the environment by limiting mining, oil exploration, and fishing. That then moves to help marine life recover.However, while the regions may work over the short term, an international team of researchers found that the regions are unlikely to save the oceans from climate change.

To make the discovery, the team looked at expected emissions under normal conditions where temperatures rise by 8.5 degrees Celsius by the end of the century, as well as conditions where temperatures only rise by 4.5 degrees Celsius in that same time. In both cases, oceans go through so many shifts that marine life is unlikely to adapt even without the added threat of fishing or oil exploration.

"It's almost an impossible trade-off," said lead author John Bruno, a researcher at the University of North Carolina, according to The Atlantic. "The global pattern for deoxygenation is almost the opposite of the warming pattern. You can put [an MPA] in a place that won't warm, but then there's going to be less oxygen there, which is at least as big a problem as climate change."

This shift is concerning, and something that may change or alter conservation efforts in the coming years. The team hopes to further study this idea to better grasp what can be done to protect the largest bodies of water on Earth.

"With warming of this magnitude, we expect to lose many, if not most, animal species from Marine Protected Areas by the turn of the century," added Bruno, in a statement. "To avoid the worst outcomes, we need to immediately adopt an emission reduction scenario in which emissions peak within the next two decades and then decrease very significantly, replacing fossil fuels with cleaner energy sources like solar and wind."