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Integrating climate change in ocean planning


The acceleration of global warming and increased vulnerability of marine social-ecological systems affect the benefits provided by the ocean. Spatial planning of marine areas is vital to balance multiple human demands and ensure a healthy ocean, while supporting global ocean goals. To thrive in a changing ocean though, marine spatial planning (MSP) must effectively integrate climate change. By reviewing existing literature on MSP and climate change, we explore the links between them and with ocean sustainability, highlight management challenges, and identify potential pathways to guide action towards the effective integration of climate impacts in MSP.

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Fig. 1: Global status of MSP development in 2019.
Fig. 2: Overview of climate change and MSP literature.
Fig. 3: Conceptual model of the nexus among MSP, climate change and ocean sustainability, and direct relationships to UN SDGs.
Fig. 4: A crowded ocean under a changing climate.


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This research is part of project OCEANPLAN (Marine Spatial Planning under a Changing Climate; funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology (FCT) under grant agreement PTDC/CTA-AMB/30226/2017. C.F.S. acknowledges funding from programme MAR2020 (MAR-01.04.02-FEAMP-0007) and the strategic project granted to MARE (UID/MAR/04292/2013). We would like to thank M. Barange for early discussions on the nexus between MSP and climate change (that led to many ideas discussed in the Review), to J. Pålsson for information on the Sweden case study, and to C. P. Santos and N. Queiróz for information used to produce maps. A deep acknowledgement to visual artist B. Kohler ( for creating the original cartoon presented in Fig. 4 (a crowded ocean under a changing climate).

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C.F.S. and R.R. designed the study. C.F.S. developed the first draft of the manuscript. T.A., F.A., H.C., L.B.C., C.N.E., S.G.-M., E.G., B.S.H., M.K.O., H.-O.P. and R.R. commented on initial drafts, and all authors contributed to the final version of the Review article.

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Correspondence to Catarina Frazão Santos.

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Supplementary Methods, Tables 1–5, Figs. 1 and 2, and references.

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Frazão Santos, C., Agardy, T., Andrade, F. et al. Integrating climate change in ocean planning. Nat Sustain 3, 505–516 (2020).

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