Researchers have found that over the last decade, multiple Pacific Marine heatwaves have had a dire impact on the ecosystems of California’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
The devastating effects include mass die-off, migration and habitat loss, which feeds onto the land, causing local economic losses and more.
The report was spearheaded by UC Santa Barbara researchers and published in Global Change Biology. The researchers found that the heat waves didn’t discriminate, and areas were negatively affected whether they were designated as an MPA or not.
Commenting on the findings, lead researcher Joshua Smith, who is currently Ocean Conservation Research Fellow at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, stated:
“MPAs in California and globally offer numerous advantages, including heightened fish abundance, biomass, and diversity However, they were not originally intended to mitigate the consequences of climate change or marine heatwaves. We utilized no-take MPAs as a means of comparison to determine whether the protected ecological communities exhibited better resilience to the marine heatwave compared to areas where fishing activities took place.”
While Jenn Caselle, a researcher at UCSB’s Marine Science Institute and fellow researcher, added:
“The MPAs did not exhibit resistance or aid in the recovery of habitats or communities, regardless of the habitat type or taxonomic group.”