The importance of Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Areas help increase ecosystem resilience to environmental stress.

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Ocean life is under threat from a variety of human activities. Fertilizer runoff is fueling ocean anoxia and the spread of dead zones. Over-fishing is decimating populations of key species, and those animals that are left are threatened by a constant flow of plastics and other waste.  Even at the seafloor, dredging and mining pose risks to benthic ecosystems. An editorial at Nature Geoscience argues that marine protected areas can serve as a refuge for ecosystems to recover. 

Well-designed and well-policed Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) promote biodiversity, and have been shown to increase ecosystem resilience to stressors. But even though these diverse ecosystems can recover from temporary shocks, impending warming and acidification could prove too much for even the healthiest marine community to withstand.

 Image credit: Steffen Binke / Alamy Stock Photo

Alicia Newton

Senior Editor, Nature Geoscience

I have been an editor with Nature Geoscience for 10 years. Previously I completed a PhD at the University of South Carolina in geosciences, studying temperature changes in the Indo Pacific warm pool over the past 26,000 years.