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  1. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a key tool for achieving goals for biodiversity conservation and human well-being, including improving climate resilience and equitable access to nature. At a national level, they are central components in the U.S. commitment to conserve at least 30% of U.S. waters by 2030. By definition, the primary goal of an MPA is the long-term conservation of nature; however, not all MPAs provide the same ecological and social benefits. A U.S. system of MPAs that is equitable, well-managed, representative and connected, and includes areas at a level of protection that can deliver desired outcomes is best positioned to support national goals. We used a new MPA framework, The MPA Guide, to assess the level of protection and stage of establishment of the 50 largest U.S. MPAs, which make up 99.7% of the total U.S. MPA area (3.19 million km2). Over 96% of this area, including 99% of that which is fully or highly protected against extractive or destructive human activities, is in the central Pacific ocean. Total MPA area in other regions is sparse – only 1.9% of the U.S. ocean excluding the central Pacific is protected in any kind of MPA (120,976 km2). Over three quarters of the non-central Pacific MPA area is lightly or minimally protected against extractive or destructive human activities. These results highlight an urgent need to improve the quality, quantity, and representativeness of MPA protection in U.S. waters to bring benefits to human and marine communities. We identify and review the state of the science, including focal areas for achieving desired MPA outcomes and lessons learned from places where sound ecological and social design principles come together in MPAs that are set up to achieve national goals for equity, climate resilience, and biodiversity conservation. We recommend key opportunities for action specific to the U.S. context, including increasing funding, research, equity, and protection level for new and existing U.S. MPAs.

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  3. Abstract

    Climate change is already having profound effects on biodiversity, but climate change adaptation has yet to be fully incorporated into area‐based management tools used to conserve biodiversity, such as protected areas. One main obstacle is the lack of consensus regarding how impacts of climate change can be included in spatial conservation plans. We propose a climate‐smart framework that prioritizes the protection of climate refugia—areas of low climate exposure and high biodiversity retention—using climate metrics. We explore four aspects of climate‐smart conservation planning: (1) climate model ensembles; (2) multiple emission scenarios; (3) climate metrics; and (4) approaches to identifying climate refugia. We illustrate this framework in the Western Pacific Ocean, but it is equally applicable to terrestrial systems. We found that all aspects of climate‐smart conservation planning considered affected the configuration of spatial plans. The choice of climate metrics and approaches to identifying refugia have large effects in the resulting climate‐smart spatial plans, whereas the choice of climate models and emission scenarios have smaller effects. As the configuration of spatial plans depended on climate metrics used, a spatial plan based on a single measure of climate change (e.g., warming) will not necessarily be robust against other measures of climate change (e.g., ocean acidification). We therefore recommend using climate metrics most relevant for the biodiversity and region considered based on a single or multiple climate drivers. To include the uncertainty associated with different climate futures, we recommend using multiple climate models (i.e., an ensemble) and emission scenarios. Finally, we show that the approaches we used to identify climate refugia feature trade‐offs between: (1) the degree to which they are climate‐smart, and (2) their efficiency in meeting conservation targets. Hence, the choice of approach will depend on the relative value that stakeholders place on climate adaptation. By using this framework, protected areas can be designed with improved longevity and thus safeguard biodiversity against current and future climate change. We hope that the proposed climate‐smart framework helps transition conservation planning toward climate‐smart approaches.

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  4. Abstract

    Climate change manifestation in the ocean, through warming, oxygen loss, increasing acidification, and changing particulate organic carbon flux (one metric of altered food supply), is projected to affect most deep‐ocean ecosystems concomitantly with increasing direct human disturbance. Climate drivers will alter deep‐sea biodiversity and associated ecosystem services, and may interact with disturbance from resource extraction activities or even climate geoengineering. We suggest that to ensure the effective management of increasing use of the deep ocean (e.g., for bottom fishing, oil and gas extraction, and deep‐seabed mining), environmental management and developing regulations must consider climate change. Strategic planning, impact assessment and monitoring, spatial management, application of the precautionary approach, and full‐cost accounting of extraction activities should embrace climate consciousness. Coupled climate and biological modeling approaches applied in the water and on the seafloor can help accomplish this goal. For example, Earth‐System Model projections of climate‐change parameters at the seafloor reveal heterogeneity in projected climate hazard and time of emergence (beyond natural variability) in regions targeted for deep‐seabed mining. Models that combine climate‐induced changes in ocean circulation with particle tracking predict altered transport of early life stages (larvae) under climate change. Habitat suitability models can help assess the consequences of altered larval dispersal, predict climate refugia, and identify vulnerable regions for multiple species under climate change. Engaging the deep observing community can support the necessary data provisioning to mainstream climate into the development of environmental management plans. To illustrate this approach, we focus on deep‐seabed mining and the International Seabed Authority, whose mandates include regulation of all mineral‐related activities in international waters and protecting the marine environment from the harmful effects of mining. However, achieving deep‐ocean sustainability under the UN Sustainable Development Goals will require integration of climate consideration across all policy sectors.

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