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Climate change is likely to severely limit the effectiveness of deep-sea ABMTs in the North Atlantic

Johnson, David; Ferreira, Maria Adelaide; Kenchington, Ellen

ATLAS work package 7 presentation at ATLAS 3rd General Assembly.

Dealing with the multiple and increasing pressures placed on the deep sea requires adequate governance and management systems, and a thorough evaluation of cumulative impacts grounded on sound science. In the North Atlantic, Area-Based Management Tools (ABMTs), including Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) and other effective conservation measures, such as areas closed to protect Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (VMEs), have been created in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ). Notwithstanding the different objectives of various types of ABMTs, at an ocean scale it makes good sense to consider them collectively to inform future systematic conservation planning.
This presentation focuses on climate change pressures likely to affect these areas and the need to evaluate implications for the state of biodiversity features for which they have been established. It draws on the discussions held at ATLAS GA2, and peer review by ATLAS colleagues that contributed to a recently published paper (Johnson et al., 2018) produced in the framework of the ATLAS project, based on published data and on expert judgement. Results suggest that in a 20–50 year timeframe, virtually all North Atlantic deep-water and open ocean ABMTs will likely be affected by the effects of rapidly changing ocean variables such as temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, fluxes of particulate organic carbon, and by changes in ocean circulation patterns. Results further suggest that resilience of populations, habitats and deep-sea ecosystems to changes in one or more of these variables is likely to be low, in which case the effectiveness of deep-sea ABMTs in the North Atlantic is likely to be severely limited by the effects of climate change.
More precise and detailed oceanographic data are needed to determine possible refugia, and more research on adaptation and resilience in the deep sea is needed to predict ecosystem response times. Until such analyses can be made, a more precautionary approach is advocated, potentially setting aside more extensive areas and strictly limiting human uses and/or adopting high protection thresholds before any additional human use impacts are allowed. The presentation will invite colleagues to suggest ways in which emerging results from ATLAS Work Packages can now inform the issue.

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