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FutureMARES Cooperation with Fair Seas: Climate Resilience for Irish MPA Network

As part of FutureMARES' Call for Knowledge Needs, Plymouth Marine Lab (PML) joined forces with Fair Seas to analyse climate projections for ocean species and habitats in Irish waters.

Irish beach with seaview

The aim of the cooperation in the context of managing Ireland's MPA network was to identify the locations of climate change refugia along the country's coasts. Such refugia will likely be less affected by the impacts of climate change and will therefore be important locations for sensitive species in times of ocean warming/acidification. The modelling activity conducted together with Fair Seas occurred in the context of a Call for Knowledge Needs, an initiative within FutureMARES that funded research cooperations between the project and external stakeholders.

Contents of the Cooperation

Modeling projections assessing the impact of climate change on marine species and habitats are crucial for informing conservation strategies. By identifying climate-resilient sites, including those in Irish waters, FutureMARES researchers from PML and Fair Seas staff developed effective conservation measures. The analysis indicates that over half of Irish waters contain important climate change refugia, many of which coincide with Areas of Interest already rich in biodiversity. Incorporating these refugia into an expanded, well-managed Marine Protected Area (MPA) network offers a promising avenue to preserve marine life for generations to come.

Ocean Modelling for Decision- and Policy-Making

Ocean climate modeling, encompassing physical and biogeochemical modeling, species distribution modeling, and ecosystem modeling, plays a crucial role as a decision-support mechanism for policymakers. It aids in designing spatial policy interventions that can adapt to the impacts of climate change, including the strategic placement of marine protected areas, often referred to as climate-smart interventions.

A method to evaluate the timing and locations of significant ecosystem shifts, which impact the conditions necessary for species and habitats of conservation importance, is to conduct spatial meta-analysis of time-series data from ocean climate modeling. This approach helps identify the emergence of a climate change signal at the ecosystem level, pinpointing when and where such shifts occur and where they do not. This method enables the examination of climate change effects as a complex stressor process affecting various species and habitats simultaneously.

Climate Sensitive Sites and Refugia Identifying climate-sensitive sites reveals areas transitioning into new ecosystem states that might struggle to maintain current levels of species diversity or ecosystem function, aligning with anticipated climate change patterns in the area. On the other hand, the recognition of climate-resilient sites, also known as 'refugia', indicates locations and periods where ecosystems are likely to sustain themselves according to the resilience framework outlined in the Irish Government’s MPA Advisory Group report. Thus, the cooperation between FutureMARES and Fair Seas is a key stepping stone for further MPA planning in Irish waters and an important contribution to meeting the EU's 2030 biodiversity goals.

The cooperation between FutureMARES and Fair Seas resulted in a report that is an addendum chapter to their report 'Revitalising our Seas'. You can download the addendum report below.

Cover of the Fair Seas Report "Revitalising our Seas"

For more information about this cooperation and its results, get in touch with:

Ana Queiros (PML) -

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