Adaptive management of marine mega-fauna in a changing climate

  • Mariana M. P. B. FuentesEmail author
  • Lynda Chambers
  • Andrew Chin
  • Peter Dann
  • Kirstin Dobbs
  • Helene Marsh
  • Elvira S. Poloczanska
  • Kim Maison
  • Malcolm Turner
  • Robert L. Pressey


Management of marine mega-fauna in a changing climate is constrained by a series of uncertainties, often related to climate change projections, ecological responses, and the effectiveness of strategies in alleviating climate change impacts. Uncertainties can be reduced over time through adaptive management. Adaptive management is a framework for resource conservation that promotes iterative learning-based decision making. To successfully implement the adaptive management cycle, different steps (planning, designing, learning and adjusting) need to be systematically implemented to inform earlier steps in an iterative way. Despite the critical role that adaptive management is likely to play in addressing the impacts of climate change on marine mega-fauna few managers have successfully implemented an adaptive management approach. We discuss the approaches necessary to implement each step of an adaptive management cycle to manage marine mega-fauna in a changing climate, highlighting the steps that require further attention to fully implement the process. Examples of sharks and rays (Selachimorpha and Batoidea) on the Great Barrier Reef and little penguins, Eudyptula minor, in south-eastern Australia are used as case studies. We found that successful implementation of the full adaptive management cycle to marine mega-fauna needs managers and researchers to: (1) obtain a better understanding of the capacity of species to adapt to climate change to inform the planning step; (2) identify strategies to directly address impacts in the marine environment to inform the designing step; and (3) develop systematic evaluation and monitoring programs to inform the learning step. Further, legislation needs to flexible to allow for management to respond.


Adaptive management Climate change Marine mega-fauna Marine turtles Opportunities Resilience Seabirds Sharks 



The initial ideas for this paper were discussed during the Systematic management of marine mega-fauna in a changing climate symposium at the 25th International Congress for Conservation Biology in Auckland, New Zealand in 2011. The authors are grateful for comments on a draft manuscript by Sue Moore, Mark Read, and Phil Koloi and for later revisions by Nadine Marshall, Natalie Ban, Marianne Fish and Alistair Hobday, all of which improved the manuscript greatly. RLP acknowledge the support of the Australian Research Council (ARC). MMPBF is grateful for the support from the ARC, Save Our Seas Foundation, and the Ian Potter Foundation.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Mariana M. P. B. Fuentes
    • 1
    Email author
  • Lynda Chambers
    • 2
  • Andrew Chin
    • 3
  • Peter Dann
    • 4
  • Kirstin Dobbs
    • 5
  • Helene Marsh
    • 6
  • Elvira S. Poloczanska
    • 7
  • Kim Maison
    • 8
  • Malcolm Turner
    • 5
  • Robert L. Pressey
    • 1
  1. 1.ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook UniversityTownsville QueenslandAustralia
  2. 2.Centre for Australian Weather and Climate ResearchMelbourneAustralia
  3. 3.Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and AquacultureJames Cook UniversityTownsville, QueenslandAustralia
  4. 4.Research Department, Phillip Island Nature Parks, Cowes, Phillip IslandVictoriaAustralia
  5. 5.Great Barrier Reef Marine Park AuthorityTownsville, QueenslandAustralia
  6. 6.School of Earth and Environmental SciencesJames Cook UniversityTownsville, QueenslandAustralia
  7. 7.Climate Adaptation Flagship, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric ResearchBrisbane, QueenslandAustralia
  8. 8.Joint Institute for Marine and Atmospheric ResearchHawaiiUSA

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