Climate change impacts on connectivity in the ocean: Implications for conservation

Leah Gerber, Maria Del Mar Mancha-Cisneros, Mary I. O'connor, Elizabeth R. Selig

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

63 Scopus citations


Effective spatial management in the ocean requires a network of conservation areas that are connected by larval and adult dispersal. We propose a conceptual framework for including the likely impacts of a changing climate on marine connectivity, and synthesize information on the relationships between changing ocean temperature and acidification, connectivity and conservation tools. Our framework relies on concepts of functional connectivity, which depends on an organism's biological and behavioral responses to the physical environment, and structural connectivity, which describes changes in the physical and spatial structure of the environment that affect connectivity and movement. Our review confirms that ocean climate change likely reduces potential dispersal distance and therefore functional connectivity. Structural connectivity in the ocean will inevitably change with the spatial arrangement of biogenic habitats resulting from disturbance as well as enhanced growth and mortality due to climate change. Climate change will also likely reduce the spatial scale of connectivity, suggesting that we will need more closely spaced protected areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number33
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 24 2014


  • Climate change
  • Connectivity
  • Dispersal
  • Marine reserves
  • Marine spatial planning
  • Ocean acidification
  • Warming

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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