CLIMATE CHANGE REFUGIA IN MARINE ECOSYSTEMS: SCIENTIFIC ASSESSMENT AND LEGAL ASPECTS

Student: 
Cecilia del Castillo Moro
Room: 
room 1
session: 
Session 7, August 27, 14:00-15:30

The protection of climate change refugia has been recognised as an adaptation strategy to face climate change impacts in marine ecosystems. However, the concept of climate change refugia has been misused in the literature along the last two decades. Therefore, willing to bring some insight, I carried out the first systematic literature review of climate change refugia in marine ecosystems and further analysed the opportunities and challenges to protect them under the main international conventions (the Convention on Biological Diversity, the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change and the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea). Ocean warming refugia for zooxanthelate hard corals were the most commonly assessed refugia. Moreover, the results evidenced the lack of reliable data (i.e. fine-scale and long-term relevant variables associated with the main climate stressors) supporting refugial capacity as well as some confusion regarding the criteria applied by authors to suggest refugia (i.e. the physiological resistance of organisms is not a valid criterion). In spite of the scientific gaps, acknowledging the urgent need of adaptation to climate change threats and according to the Precautionary Principle of international law, I proposed the addition of a new criterion to identify Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs) under the CBD framework: “Climate Change Refugium”, to enhance protection and monitoring of climate change refugia by the main legal instruments of the aforementioned conventions.