The Ocean’s Missing Highways: A Threat to Biodiversity

biodiversityDS.
Sea change
Published in
2 min readMar 16, 2021

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© OCEANA / Juan Cuetos

Are Our Ocean Reserves Too Lonely?

Think of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as special ocean neighborhoods where fish, corals, and other sea life get a break. They’re off-limits to fishing and such, helping boost populations and keep things healthy. Lately, the idea is to link these MPAs into networks for even better results.

But here’s the thing: how well connected ARE these MPAs? A fnew study looked at Europe’s network and the news isn’t great. Turns out, it’s less of a network and more of a bunch of isolated islands when it comes to how ocean critters can actually move between them.

Why This is a Big Deal

No Backup Plan: If a heatwave or something wipes out a key species inside a single MPA, there’s nowhere for new ones to easily swim in from. That’s bad news.
Climate Change Equals Moving Targets: Ocean life is already shifting where it lives due to warming waters. If our protected areas aren’t well-connected, species on the move could be out of luck.
It’s Not Just About Fish: It’s also about corals, sponges, the whole underwater ecosystem! Isolation makes everyone more vulnerable.

© OCEANA / Carlos Minguell

What Can Be Done?

The study says we need to play connect-the-dots in the ocean. More MPAs strategically placed can act like stepping stones, creating safe travel routes for marine life. It’s the underwater version of those wildlife corridors you see on land! This all shows that protecting the ocean isn’t just about saying “no” to fishing in spots. It’s about a smart, long-term plan that helps nature itself stay resilient.

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biodiversityDS.
Sea change

Hi!! I’m Jorge Assis, a Data Scientist, Marine Ecologist, Climate Change Analyst, R and Python Developer based in Portugal [biodiversitydatascience.com]