Beyond boundaries: governance considerations for climate-driven habitat shifts of highly migratory marine species across jurisdictions

Santos BS, Hazen EL, Welch H, et al (2024) Beyond boundaries: governance considerations for climate-driven habitat shifts of highly migratory marine species across jurisdictions. npj Ocean Sustain 3:1–8.

The mobile nature of migratory marine animals across jurisdictional boundaries can challenge the management of biodiversity, particularly under global environmental change. While projections of climate-driven habitat change can reveal whether marine species are predicted to gain or lose habitat in the future, geopolitical boundaries and differing governance regimes may influence animals’ abilities to thrive in new areas. Broad geographic movements and diverse governance approaches elicit the need for strong international collaboration to holistically manage and conserve these shared migratory species. In this study, we use data from the Tagging of Pacific Predators program to demonstrate the feasibility of using climate-driven habitat projections to assess species’ jurisdictional redistribution. Focusing on four species (shortfin mako shark, California sea lion, northern elephant seal, and sooty shearwater), we calculate the projected change in core habitat across jurisdictional boundaries throughout the century and highlight associated management implications. Using climate-driven habitat projections from the period of 2001 to 2010, and an RCP 8.5 climate scenario, we found that all four species are projected to face up to a 2.5-10% change in core habitat across jurisdictions in the Northeast Pacific, with the greatest gains of core habitat redistribution within the United States exclusive economic zone and in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Overall, our study demonstrates how efforts to understand the impacts of climate change on species’ habitat use should be expanded to consider how resulting shifts may provoke new management challenges in a legally bounded, yet physically borderless ocean. We discuss governance implications for transboundary habitat redistribution as highly migratory marine species potentially shift across legal jurisdictions, including new ocean areas beyond national judications, considerations which are applicable within and beyond this Pacific case study. Our study also highlights data needs and management strategies to inform high-level conservation strategies, as well as recommendations for using updated tagging data and climate models to build upon this approach in future work.