MPA Challenge: Climate Change

MPA and Climate Change (project phase II)
The initial plan was to assess effects of climate change in the Artic include abiotic changes such as melting ice, fresh water input and acidification and ecological changes (Soto, 2001; Roessig et al., 2004) such as changes in primary production, shifts in species ranges, species distribution and abundance, loss of habitat, change in migratory patterns, etc.. And to do this at a high level of detail per MPA, considering species, the stressors and their magnitude. Such an analysis could not be completed.

  • MPA information does not include specifics on the species and/or habitats that are the reason fot its designation.
  • The challenge on Climate Change, Coast and Riverine Inputs did not uncover relevant and usable datasets that could have been (re-)used for the MPA and Climate Change analysis. In addition to this for the MPA Challenge and the Coherence analysis, the project team did not find datasets on habitats, other than sea ice, that would make sense for use in this respect.

With the current level of information that is readily available to the project this challenge could not be completed in its intended fashion.

Based on the outcome of the the Coherence analysis a single threatened habitat can be identified: Sea Ice. It is an essential habitat for a number of Arctic species and is only to a very small extent included within current MPA boundaries. Considering the root cause of the threats to sea ice in the Arctic Ocean, being Climate Change designating protected areas will not be helpful in safeguarding this habitat.

Outcome for a susceptibility analysis of Arctic MPAs for the influences of Climate Change, is that it is susceptible. The dependence of species like: 

  • the  Polar Bear (Ursus maritimus),
  • the Hooded Seal (Cystophora cristata),
  • Ringed Seal (Pusa hispida),
  • Narwal (Monodon Monoceros),
  • Ivory Gull (Pagophila eburnea),
  • Polar Cod (Boreogadus saida),
  • Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) and
  • Beluga (Delphinapterus leucas),

on year-round availability of considerable areas of sea ice is a strong indication of this susceptibility and of the fact that it may impact these and also other species.

Sea Ice as a habitat threatened by climate change
The presented map of sea ice extent across the Arctic Ocean has been sourced from NSIDC (Fetterer et al., 2016). The 2015 maximum extent (March) and minimum extent (September) are clear much lower than the median extent during the period 1981-2010.

MPA sea ice extent 2015

The following graph uses projected data for the minimum extent (September) of Arctic sea ice from 2010 to 2100 (data sourced from One Shared Ocean, 2017), it also includes the (lower) observed sea ice extent for September 2015.

MPA observed sea ice extent 2015 // observed-sea-ice-extent-2015.png (62 K)
The maximum sea ice extent has also been decreasing (NSICD, 2017) as pictured below. The March 2015 extent as presented above in a map amounts to 14.5 million km2.

MPA maximum sea ice extent 2017

One more characteristic of sea ice that is clearly changing over the last three decades is the amount of multi-year ice, as is illustrated by another graph from NSICD (2017).

MPA multi year ice nsicd 2017 // multi-year-ice-nsicd-2017.png (262 K)


  • Fetterer, F., K. Knowles, W. Meier, and M. Savoie. 2016, updated daily. Sea Ice Index, Version 2. Boulder, Colorado USA. NSIDC: National Snow and Ice Data Center. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.7265/N5736NV7.
  • NSICD. (2017). National Snow and Ice Data Center, News section accessed 5 May 2017, https://nsidc.org/arcticseaicenews/
  • One Shared Ocean. (2017). Arctic Sea Ice projection. http://onesharedocean.org/public_store/oo_sea_ice/oo_seaicearctic_rcp85.zip
  • Roessig JM, Woodley CM, Cech JJ, Hansen LJ. (2004). Effects of global climate change on marine and estuarine fishes and fisheries. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 14:251-275
  • Soto CG. (2001). The potential impacts of global climate change on marine protected areas. Reviews in Fish Biology and Fisheries 11:181-195