I am a marine and freshwater biologist, interested in coastal ecosystems ability to respond to anthropogenic pressure. I have experience in assessing Marine Protected Areas and investigating climate change mitigation processes including carbon sequestration. In my PhD, I am to better understand the long-term resilience of the Scottish MPA network.
Climate change adaptation: Evaluating long-term resilience of the Scottish Marine Protected Area network
Climate change is driving ongoing rapid change in marine environments worldwide, leading to shifts in species’ distributions as they track their ‘climate envelopes’ (the range of climatic conditions underpinning long-term persistence). This has consequences for long-term conservation management. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are an important component of modern marine conservation practice, but their contribution to conservation may evolve under climate change. Ensuring continued resilience in marine conservation management under these conditions represents a significant challenge for marine managers and will have implications for marine users.
The proposed project aims to critically evaluate the resilience of the current Scottish Marine Protected Area (MPA) network in the face of projected climate change to 2045 (by when Scotland seeks to achieve Net Zero CO2 emission status) and beyond, based on climate envelopes of selected features (species/habitats) for which these protected areas were originally designated, and explore planning/policy ramifications.
The proposed PhD project will require engagement with two broad research work streams, operating in parallel with significant linkages between them. The first work stream will focus on evaluating the likelihood of changes in abundance and/or distributions of certain species for which MPAs have been designated in Scottish waters, across a range of IPCC climate change projections. Species will be chosen to represent different modes of exposure to changing climates. Predictive conservation planning models will be used to understand predicted changes in species’ distributions over time, building on the climate velocity concept while considering potential ‘climate refuges’ and risks of climatic bottlenecks/cul-de-sacs to produce predictive risk assessments. This will inform understanding to what extent Scotland’s MPA network will continue to provide adequate protection to these species under predicted climate change scenarios of varying severity.
The second work stream will seek to evaluate potential policy/planning consequences of expected changes to species’ distributions, and the continued role of the Scottish MPA network as a conservation tool, explored in the first work stream under scenarios of progressive climate change.