Protecting the global ocean for biodiversity, food and climate

The ocean contains unique biodiversity, provides valuable food resources and is a major sink for anthropogenic carbon. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are an effective tool for restoring ocean biodiversity and ecosystem services1,2, but at present only 2.7% of the ocean is highly protected3. This low level of ocean protection is due largely to conflicts with fisheries and other extractive uses. To address this issue, here we developed a conservation planning framework to prioritize highly protected MPAs in places that would result in multiple benefits today and in the future. We find that a substantial increase in ocean protection could have triple benefits, by protecting biodiversity, boosting the yield of fisheries and securing marine carbon stocks that are at risk from human activities. Our results show that most coastal nations contain priority areas that can contribute substantially to achieving these three objectives of biodiversity protection, food provision and carbon storage. A globally coordinated effort could be nearly twice as efficient as uncoordinated, national-level conservation planning. Our flexible prioritization framework could help to inform both national marine spatial plans4 and global targets for marine conservation, food security and climate action.

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Sala Enric, Mayorga Juan, Bradley Darcy, Cabral Reniel B., Atwood Trisha B., Auber Arnaud, Cheung William, Costello Christopher, Ferretti Francesco, Friedlander Alan M., Gaines Steven D., Garilao Cristina, Goodell Whitney, Halpern Benjamin S., Hinson Audra, Kaschner Kristin, Kesner-Reyes Kathleen, Leprieur Fabien, McGowan Jennifer, Morgan Lance E., Mouillot David, Palacios-Abrantes Juliano, Possingham Hugh P., Rechberger Kristin D., Worm Boris, Lubchenco Jane (2021). Protecting the global ocean for biodiversity, food and climate. Nature. 592 (7854). 397-402.,

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