The ocean contains unique biodiversity, provides valuable food resources and is a major sink for anthropogenic carbon. Marine protected areas (MPAs) are an effective tool for restoring ocean biodiversity and ecosystem services1,2, but at present only 2.7% of the ocean is highly protected3. This low level of ocean protection is due largely to conflicts with fisheries and other extractive uses. To address this issue, here we developed a conservation planning framework to prioritize highly protected MPAs in places that would result in multiple benefits today and in the future. We find that a substantial increase in ocean protection could have triple benefits, by protecting biodiversity, boosting the yield of fisheries and securing marine carbon stocks that are at risk from human activities. Our results show that most coastal nations contain priority areas that can contribute substantially to achieving these three objectives of biodiversity protection, food provision and carbon storage. A globally coordinated effort could be nearly twice as efficient as uncoordinated, national-level conservation planning. Our flexible prioritization framework could help to inform both national marine spatial plans4 and global targets for marine conservation, food security and climate action.
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The underlying data used in this study are available from the sources listed in the Supplementary Information.
The R code that supports the findings of this study is available at https://github.com/emlab-ucsb/ocean-conservation-priorities.
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This study was funded by the National Geographic Society and the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation. D.M. was supported by the French Foundation for Research on Biodiversity (FRB).
The authors declare no competing interests.
Peer review information Nature thanks Charles Ehler and the other, anonymous, reviewer(s) for their contribution to the peer review of this work.
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Sala, E., Mayorga, J., Bradley, D. et al. Protecting the global ocean for biodiversity, food and climate. Nature 592, 397–402 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-021-03371-z
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