Designing connected marine reserves in the face of global warming

(Spanish version here)

Global warming can disrupt ecological connectivity among marine reserves by shortening potential dispersal pathways through changes in larval physiology. These changes can compromise the effectiveness of marine reserve networks, thus requiring adjusting their design to account for warmer oceans. To address this challenge, a group of scientists, agencies, NGOs, and fishers have developed an approach to planning for connectivity under future ocean warming. The project, coordinated by Comunidad y Biodiversidad, A.C. (COBI), is guiding the design and implementation of a network of marine reserves in the Gulf of California, Mexico.


Midriff Islands Region in the northern Gulf of California, Mexico. Photo by Thor Morales ©

Using the Midriff Islands Region as a case study, we developed a framework to design marine reserve networks that integrates graph theory and changes in larval connectivity due to ocean warming. Our study shows that maintaining dispersal connectivity incidentally through representation-only reserve design is unlikely, particularly in regions with strong asymmetric patterns of connectivity. We suggest that, given potential reductions in planktonic larval duration due to ocean warming, future marine reserve networks would require more and/or larger reserves in closer proximity to maintain larval connectivity. Designing marine reserve networks through an approach based on centrality of habitat patches produces better-connected marine reserve networks for the future with equivalent socioeconomic costs. The results of this study, led by Jorge G. Alvarez-Romero, were recently published in Global Change Biology.

**For more information, refer to the following publication and blog:

Álvarez-Romero, J.G., Munguia-Vega, A., Beger, M., Mancha-Cisneros, M.M., Suárez-Castillo, A.N., Gurney, G.G., Pressey, R.L., Gerber, Morzaria-Luna, H.N., L.R., Reyes-Bonilla, H., Adams, V.M., Kolb, M., Graham, E.M., VanDerWal, J., Castillo-Lopez, A., Hinojosa-Arango, G., Petatán-Ramírez, D., Moreno-Baez, M., Godínez-Reyes, C.R., Torre, J. 2017. Designing connected marine reserves in the face of global warming. Global Change Biology: 1-21. Link:

Blog: Designing connected marine reserves in the face of global warming