, Volume 19, Issue 2, pp 187–219 | Cite as

Adapting Management of Marine Environments to a Changing Climate: A Checklist to Guide Reform and Assess Progress

  • Colin CreightonEmail author
  • Alistair J. Hobday
  • Michael Lockwood
  • Gretta T. Pecl


Documented impacts of climate change on marine systems indicate widespread changes in many geographic regions and throughout all levels of the ocean’s food webs. Oceans provide the main source of animal protein for over a billion people, and contribute significantly to food security for billions more. Clearly, if we are to continue to derive these benefits, then the rate of adaptation in our human systems needs to at least keep pace with the rate of ecological change for these benefits to continue. An Australia-wide program of research into marine biodiversity and fisheries explored the opportunities for policy and management to respond to a changing climate. The research program spanned all Australian estuarine-nearshore and marine environments—tropical, subtropical, and temperate—and focused on two key marine sectors: biodiversity conservation and fisheries (commercial, recreational, and aquaculture). Key findings from across this strategic and extensive research investment were the need to foster resilience through habitat repair and protection, improve resource allocation strategies, fine-tune fisheries management systems, and enhance whole of government approaches and policies. Building on these findings, from a climate adaptation perspective, we generated a checklist of thirteen elements encompassing all project findings to assess and steer progress towards improving marine policy and management. These elements are grouped in three broad areas: preconditioning; future proofing; and transformational changes and opportunities. Arising from these elements is a suite of priority strategies that provide guidance for marine managers, policy practitioners, and stakeholders as they prepare for a future under climate change. As the research program encompassed a wide range of habitats and ecosystems, spanned a latitudinal range of over 30°, and considered a diversity of management systems and approaches, many of these elements and strategies will be applicable in a global context.


marine biodiversity fisheries management marine conservation climate change adaptation transformation 



The Climate Change Adaptation—Marine Biodiversity and Fisheries research initiative was supported by Australian and State Governments, CSIRO, and many Australian universities. We acknowledge the contributing research efforts led by teams in each of the projects we describe here, and the comments of the anonymous reviewers and editor in improving the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Colin Creighton
    • 1
    • 6
    Email author
  • Alistair J. Hobday
    • 2
    • 3
  • Michael Lockwood
    • 4
  • Gretta T. Pecl
    • 3
    • 5
  1. 1.Fisheries Research and Development CorporationDeakin WestAustralia
  2. 2.CSIRO Oceans and AtmosphereHobartAustralia
  3. 3.Centre for Marine SocioecologyUniversity of TasmaniaBattery PointAustralia
  4. 4.Geography and Spatial Sciences, School of Land and FoodUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  5. 5.Institute for Marine and Antarctic StudiesUniversity of TasmaniaHobartAustralia
  6. 6.CreditonAustralia

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