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Spatial and temporal changes in cumulative human impacts on the world's ocean

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      Human pressures on the ocean are thought to be increasing globally, yet we know little about their patterns of cumulative change, which pressures are most responsible for change, and which places are experiencing the greatest increases. Managers and policymakers require such information to make strategic decisions and monitor progress towards management objectives. Here we calculate and map recent change over 5 years in cumulative impacts to marine ecosystems globally from fishing, climate change, and ocean- and land-based stressors. Nearly 66% of the ocean and 77% of national jurisdictions show increased human impact, driven mostly by climate change pressures. Five percent of the ocean is heavily impacted with increasing pressures, requiring management attention. Ten percent has very low impact with decreasing pressures. Our results provide large-scale guidance about where to prioritize management efforts and affirm the importance of addressing climate change to maintain and improve the condition of marine ecosystems.


      Human pressure on the ocean is thought to be increasing globally, yet the magnitude and patterns of these changes are largely unknown. Here, the authors produce a global map of change in cumulative human pressures over the past 5 years, and show that ∼66% of the ocean has experienced elevated human impact.

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            Author and article information

            [1 ]Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California , Santa Barbara, California 93106, USA
            [2 ]Imperial College London, Silwood Park Campus , Buckhurst Road, Ascot SL57PY, UK
            [3 ]National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis , 735 State St Suite 300, Santa Barbara, California 93101, USA
            [4 ]Department of Geography, University of California , Santa Barbara, California 93106, USA
            [5 ]NOAA National Centers for Environmental Information , Silver Spring, Maryland 20910, USA
            [6 ]Betty and Gordon Moore Center for Science and Oceans, Conservation International , Arlington, Virginia 22202, USA
            [7 ]Scripps Institution of Oceanography, University of California , San Diego, California 92093, USA
            [8 ]Hawaii Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawaii , Kaneohe, Hawaii HI 97644, USA
            [9 ]ESRI, Boston Office , Middleton, Massachusetts 01949, USA
            Author notes
            Nat Commun
            Nat Commun
            Nature Communications
            Nature Pub. Group
            14 July 2015
            : 6
            Copyright © 2015, Nature Publishing Group, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited. All Rights Reserved.

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