Successive IPCC reports show that the impacts of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet are accelerating and scientific projections indicate that impacts will continue to intensify for at least another half century before the effects of emissions reductions may begin to be felt.

This perspective paper discusses how well-managed marine reserves may help marine ecosystems and people adapt to five prominent impacts of climate change: acidification, sea-level rise, intensification of storms, shifts in species distribution, and decreased productivity and oxygen availability, as well as their cumulative effects.

The authors note that even though marine reserves will not halt change or stop many of the threats associated with climate change affecting communities within their boundaries, the existing and emerging evidence suggests that marine reserves can serve as a powerful tool to help ameliorate some problems resulting from climate change, slow the development of others, and improve the outlook for continued ecosystem functioning and delivery of ecosystem services. It is however clearly stated that marine reserves are not a substitute for rapid reductions in greenhouse gas emissions or for appropriate land and water management.

It is concluded that marine reserves offer a relatively simple nature-based and cost-effective solution that bundles many potential benefits.

Roberts CM, O’Leary BC, McCauley DJ, Cury PM, Duarte CM, Lubchenco J, Pauly D, Saenz-Arroyo A, Sumaila UR, Wilson RW, Worm B, Castilla JC (2017) Marine reserves can mitigate and promote adaptation to climate change. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 114:6167-6175

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