Intensified coastal development is compromising the health and functioning of marine ecosystems. A key example of this is the Red Sea, a biodiversity hotspot subjected to increasing local human pressures. While some marine protected areas (MPAs) were placed to alleviate these stressors, it is unclear whether these MPAs are managed or enforced, thus providing limited protection. Yet, most importantly, MPAs in the Red Sea were not designed using climate considerations, which likely diminish their effectiveness against global stressors. Here, we propose to tailor the design of MPAs in the Red Sea by integrating approaches to enhance climate change mitigation and adaptation. First, including coral bleaching susceptibility could produce a more resilient network of MPAs by safeguarding reefs from different thermal regions that vary in spatiotemporal bleaching responses, reducing the risk that all protected reefs will bleach simultaneously. Second, preserving the mesoscale-eddy-assisted and basin-wide genetic connectivity patterns could further ensure recovery of sensitive populations and maintain species potential to adapt to environmental changes. Finally, protecting mangrove forests in the northern and southern Red Sea that act as major carbon sinks could help offset greenhouse gas emissions. If implemented with multinational cooperation and concerted effort among stakeholders, our portfolio of climate-tailored approaches may help build a network of MPAs in the Red Sea that protects more effectively its coastal resources against escalating coastal development and climate instability. Beyond the Red Sea, we anticipate this study to serve as an example of how to improve the utility of tropical MPAs as climate-informed conservation tools.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Global and Planetary Change
- General Environmental Science
- Environmental Chemistry