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Planetary boundaries for a blue planet


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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Fig. 1: Shift in understanding of the uncertainty and risks associated with crossing the planetary boundaries arising from more comprehensive integration of marine systems into the framework.
Fig. 2: Examples of habitat degradation occurring in marine ecosystems that have the potential to impact on global climate through changes to carbon storage, and transfer of energy and moisture to the atmosphere.
Fig. 3: Global distribution of HANPP presented as percentage of net primary production (NPP) used.


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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.

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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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Correspondence to Kirsty L. Nash.

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Nash, K.L., Cvitanovic, C., Fulton, E.A. et al. Planetary boundaries for a blue planet. Nat Ecol Evol 1, 1625–1634 (2017).

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