University of Tasmania

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Climate resilience in marine protected areas and the 'Protection Paradox'

journal contribution
posted on 2023-05-20, 04:08 authored by Bates, AE, Cooke, RSC, Duncan, MI, Graham EdgarGraham Edgar, Bruno, JF, Benedetti-Cecchi, L, Cote, IM, Lefcheck, JS, Costello, MJ, Neville BarrettNeville Barrett, Bird, TJ, Fenberg, PB, Richard Stuart-SmithRichard Stuart-Smith
Restricting human activities through Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is assumed to create more resilient biological communities with a greater capacity to resist and recover following climate events. Here we review the evidence linking protection from local pressures (e.g., fishing and habitat destruction) with increased resilience. Despite strong theoretical underpinnings, studies have only rarely attributed resilience responses to the recovery of food webs and habitats, and increases in the diversity of communities and populations. When detected, resistance to ocean warming and recovery after extreme events in MPAs have small effect sizes against a backdrop of natural variability. By contrast, large die-offs are well described from MPAs following climate stress events. This may be in part because protection from one set of pressures or drivers (such as fishing) can select for species that are highly sensitive to others (such as warming), creating a ‘Protection Paradox’. Given that climate change is overwhelming the resilience capacity of marine ecosystems, the only primary solution is to reduce carbon emissions. High-quality monitoring data in both space and time can also identify emergent resilience signals that do exist, in combination with adequate reference data to quantify the initial system state. This knowledge will allow networks of diverse protected areas to incorporate spatial refugia against climate change, and identify resilient biological components of natural systems. Sufficient spatial replication further offers insurance against losses in any given MPA, and the possibility for many weak signals of resilience to accumulate.


Australian Research Council

Department of Parks and Wildlife (Western Australia)

Dept of Environment & Natural Resources South Australia

NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change and Water

Parks Victoria

Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service


Publication title

Biological Conservation








Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies


Elsevier Sci Ltd

Place of publication

The Boulevard, Langford Lane, Kidlington, Oxford, England, Oxon, Ox5 1Gb

Rights statement

Copyright 2019 Elsevier Ltd.

Repository Status

  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Assessment and management of terrestrial ecosystems; Global effects of climate change (excl. Australia, New Zealand, Antarctica and the South Pacific) (excl. social impacts)

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