Protecting Europe’s Future Seas

  • George Hoppit

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Problems of climate change and marine conservation occur across many aspects of social-ecological systems. Addressing these challenges requires the use of interdisciplinary research techniques. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are a common mechanism to support marine conservation and livelihoods but are often created without regard to climate change impacts. Understanding how climate change will impact MPAs, how existing MPAs can be modified considering climate, and where current institutional practices enable climate change adaptation are all needed to support future seas.
Meta-analysis of available experimental work examining European benthic organism responses to ocean acidification and warming suggests that calcifying organisms are likely to experience decreases in growth, reproductive capacity, and survival. Meta-analysis also shows European fleshy algae are resilient to end of century projected conditions. Underlying MPA ecological conditions are therefore likely to change based on current emission pathways.
Examination of UK MPA case studies shows that existing conservation mechanisms can be adjusted to enhance resilience to climate change in marine social-ecological systems. Ways to achieve this include adopting adaptive management approaches, ecosystem-based management approaches, enhanced recognition of climate change in primary legislation used to support MPAs, and improved site monitoring.
Doctrinal analysis of key conservation legislation supporting English MPAs and semi-structured interviews with individual’s familiar using said legislation reveals that there is large scope for adaptive governance in response to climate change in inshore waters. Current legislation has supported ecosystem-based management approaches and large-scale habitat restoration efforts. However, practical capacity issues of insufficient resourcing for key marine governance organisations prevents effective monitoring of MPAs, researching challenges within inshore regions, and enforcing conservation agreements.
Date of Award6 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Bristol
SupervisorDaniela N Schmidt (Supervisor), Margherita Pieraccini (Supervisor) & Rachel Turner (Supervisor)

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