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Identifying Pathways to Distributive Equity in MPA Management in a Changing Climate



In an era of widespread change, it has become increasingly important to ensure that all people can benefit from access to nature, including the coastal ocean. While significant effort has been made to engage economic actors (i.e., commercial fishermen and tourism operators) in coastal resource management, the values and priorities of other communities and cultures have received substantially less attention. In fact, many of the strategies currently being deployed to support climate adaptation may unintentionally reinforce systemic inequalities and injustices. To reduce this risk and avoid unintended consequences, it is critical to recognize and address the social, economic, historical, and cultural factors that mediate the distribution of costs and benefits in ocean access and management.

In this project, we aim to learn more about how people from disadvantaged and severely disadvantaged communities (as defined by the US Census), and Tribal communities access, use, relate to, and/or value the ocean. Additionally, we plan to investigate the ability of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to amplify or diminish such benefits for people across different demographics, locations, and user groups as climate change progresses (Figure 1). MPAs are ocean spaces that are managed to protect and sustain marine seascapes, species, cultures, and/or habitats. Working with community partners dedicated to advocacy, environmental justice, and participatory research, our research collective intends to conduct interviews, administer surveys, and hold focus group discussions in central and southern California between 2023-2025. The ultimate goal of this effort is the co-development of local strategies for increasing equity in ocean access and MPA management in a changing climate.

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Address knowledge gaps surrounding activities, values, and cultures associated with different coastal species, seascapes, and habitats

Evaluate the capacity of MPAs to support and enhance these uses and values in the face of climate driven change and uncertainty

Co-develop local spatial management strategies and policy recommendations required for state and federal agencies to effectively engage with and/or center to the needs of disadvantaged and Tribal communities in climate adaptation planning

Train student researchers from underrepresented backgrounds as “future ocean ambassadors” capable of working at the intersection of community development, coastal resource management, and ocean policy.

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