Concepts underpinning the planetary boundaries framework are being incorporated into multilateral discussions on sustainability, influencing international environmental policy development. Research underlying the boundaries has primarily focused on terrestrial systems, despite the fundamental role of marine biomes for Earth system function and societal wellbeing, seriously hindering the efficacy of the boundary approach. We explore boundaries from a marine perspective. For each boundary, we show how improved integration of marine systems influences our understanding of the risk of crossing these limits. Better integration of marine systems is essential if planetary boundaries are to inform Earth system governance.

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This project is supported by funding from the University of Tasmania and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation via the Centre for Marine Socioecology. R.A.W. acknowledges support from the Australian Research Council (Discovery project DP140101377) and E.J.M.-G. acknowledges a Pew Marine Fellowship. Thank you to R. Little for discussions relating to this paper. Availability of data used to produce Fig. 3 is described in the Supplementary Information.

Author information


  1. Centre for Marine Socioecology, Private Bag 129, Hobart, Tasmania, 7001, Australia

    • Kirsty L. Nash
    • , Christopher Cvitanovic
    • , Elizabeth A. Fulton
    • , Reg A. Watson
    •  & Julia L. Blanchard
  2. Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 129, Hobart, Tasmania, 7001, Australia

    • Kirsty L. Nash
    • , Christopher Cvitanovic
    • , Reg A. Watson
    •  & Julia L. Blanchard
  3. Faculty of Law, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 129, Hobart, Tasmania, 7001, Australia

    • Christopher Cvitanovic
  4. CSIRO, Castray Esplanade, Battery Point, Tasmania, 2004, Australia

    • Elizabeth A. Fulton
  5. National Centre for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California, 735 State St, Santa Barbara, CA, 93101-5504, USA

    • Benjamin S. Halpern
  6. Bren School of Environmental Science & Management, University of California, Santa Barbara, CA, 93101, USA

    • Benjamin S. Halpern
  7. Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus, Burkhurst Road, Ascot, SL5 7PY, UK

    • Benjamin S. Halpern
  8. Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford, Oxford, OX1 3PS, UK

    • E. J. Milner-Gulland


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K.L.N. and J.L.B. conceived the idea for the Review. K.L.N. wrote the majority of the manuscript. R.A.W. performed the HANPP mapping. All authors contributed to writing and editing the manuscript.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Correspondence to Kirsty L. Nash.

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