Integrating climate change in ocean planning.


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Nature Sustainability 


The acceleration of global warming and increased vulnerability of marine social-ecological systems affect the benefits provided by the ocean. Spatial planning of marine areas is vital to balance multiple human demands and ensure a healthy ocean, while supporting global ocean goals. To thrive in a changing ocean though, marine spatial planning (MSP) must effectively integrate climate change. By reviewing existing literature on MSP and climate change, we explore the links between them and with ocean sustainability, highlight management challenges, and identify potential pathways to guide action towards the effective integration of climate impacts in MSP.

Sea Basin(s): 
May 2020
Application in MSP: 
Unknown effect
Not sector specific
Type of Issue: 
Coexistence of uses
Economic aspects
Ecosystem-based approach
Environment aspects
Land-sea interactions
Resilience to climate change
Safety aspects
Social aspects
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Vision and aims
Analyse spatial aspects
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 
Coherence with other processes: 
Common Fisheries Policy
Habitats and Birds Directive
Integrated Coastal Zone Management
Marine Strategy Framework Directive
Renewable Energy Directive

Questions this practice may help answer: 

  • How can climate change be integrated in the MSP process? 
  • How can MSP promote adaptation to climate change?   

Implementation Context: 

The study was conducted in the framework of the OCEANPLAN project (2018-2021), a research and development project on the MSP and climate change.  

Aspects / Objectives: 

The study aims to identify the links between the climate change and marine spatial planning, and to highlight how they are related to the ocean sustainability.  


The literature review of MSP and climate change literature was conducted. Over 150 scientific publications were reviewed and analysed using the qualitative methods.  

Main Outputs / Results: 

The study highlights how the climate change can be incorporated in the MSP process and what are the future challenges of ocean sustainability. It identifies the synergies between these three elements and gives recommendations for a political consideration of climate change in MSP.  


The practice is applicable to any marine spatial planning process.

Responsible Entity: 

Marine and Environnemental Sciences Centre, Faculdade de Ciencias, Universidad de Lisboa (Portugal). 

Environmental Economics Knowledge Centre, Nova School of Busines and Economics, New University of Libon (Portugal).

Funding Source: 

The research was conducted within the framework of the OCEANPLAN project funded by the Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology. 

Contact person: 

Catarina Frazão Santos: