Each marine sanctuary is uniquely and significantly sensitive to climate variability and change.
The National Marine Sanctuaries (NMS) represent over 2 million km² of underwater park area, managed by the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries (ONMS), and are a strong public access point for NOAA science and products. ONMS is interested in longer climate timescales and is highly motivated to address climate change, which is one of, if not the major, risk factor for each sanctuary.
Climate change is currently addressed in a heterogeneous manner across the NMS system. Some sanctuaries have climate change deeply integrated into their activities and Management Plans, and some are not yet significantly focused on climate change.
There is a limited body of research to inform sanctuaries climate work.
Only 1,200 journal articles with a focus on sanctuaries have been published since 1979, and most are focused on species biology or oceanography. Only 166 articles are focused on climate and the majority of those are about ocean acidification.
This leaves gaps in understanding of other climate influences on the sanctuaries system.
Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument protects many native Hawaiian species, including the endangered Hawaiian monk seal. Photo: James Watt/NOAA
CPO’s strengths are relevant to sanctuaries’ needs and gaps.
CPO is not currently invested and is under-engaged with the stewardship side of NOAA’s mission. CPO’s strengths in Earth System Science, Climate and Societal Interactions, and Communications and Education are relevant to:
- sanctuaries science needs (e.g. climate change vulnerability; assessment; physical, chemical, and biological change),
- existing sanctuaries-relevant research and development structures,
- capability and applied research gaps (e.g. applied modeling, monitoring), and
- outreach needs (climate messaging).
MERT will address sanctuaries needs and build a new relationship through integrated activities.
CPO’s Marine Ecosystem Risk Team (MERT) aims to reinforce and expand the application of climate science in National Marine Sanctuaries activities to support NOAA’s stewardship mission.
Through a set of four integrated activities, MERT will create and support a strong two-way relationship with the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, which has clearly identified climate needs that are in CPO’s wheelhouse to address, and increase collaboration between CPO and other NOAA partners in support of this effort.