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Options for managing impacts of climate change on a deep-sea community

A Corrigendum to this article was published on 24 July 2015

This article has been updated

Abstract

The deep sea hosts some of the world's largest, oldest, and most sensitive ecosystems. Climate change and ocean acidification are likely to have severe implications for many deep-sea ecosystems and communities, but what, if anything, can be done to mitigate these threats is poorly understood. To begin to bridge this gap, we convened a stakeholder workshop to assess and prioritize options for conserving legislatively protected deep-sea coral reefs off southeast Australia that, without management intervention, are likely to be severely degraded within decades as a result of climate change. Seventeen possible options were explored that span biological, engineering and regulatory domains and that differed widely in their perceived costs, benefits, time to implementation, and risks. In the short term, the highest priority identified is the need to urgently locate and protect sites globally that are, or will become, refugia areas for the coral and its associated community as climate change progresses.

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Figure 1: Projected impacts of cliamte change on habitat suitability for S. variabilis.
Figure 2: Distribution of the 17 adaptation/mitigation options in cost–benefit space.

Change history

  • 24 June 2015

    In the print version of this Perspective, in the third sentence of the last paragraph of the main text, the quote is incorrectly attributed, and the sentence should have read: As frankly stated to us by a member of an agency concerned with the impacts of climate change on Australia generally, "why should the government or public invest in protecting a community that few people know or care about?". This error has been corrected in the online versions of the Perspective.

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Acknowledgements

We thank the participants in the options workshop, and both the participants and non-participants who scored the options, for their invaluable and thoughtful contributions. We also thank N. Bax for comments on the manuscript. This work was supported by the Australian National Climate Change Adaptation Research Program.

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Authors

Contributions

R.E.T. and J.M.G. conceived of, designed and analysed the results of all phases of the work, R.J.M. did the oceanographic modelling and A.J.H. led the discussion of management options and analysed the expert scoring of these options. R.E.T. undertook the analysis of environmental tolerances of S. variabilis, with input from J.M.G. All four contributed to writing the manuscript.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Ronald E. Thresher.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Thresher, R., Guinotte, J., Matear, R. et al. Options for managing impacts of climate change on a deep-sea community. Nature Clim Change 5, 635–639 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate2611

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