Marine protected areas (MPAs) are increasingly being promoted as an ocean-based climate solution. However, such claims remain controversial because of the diffuse and poorly synthesized literature on climate benefits of MPAs. To address this knowledge gap, we conducted a systematic literature review of 22,403 publications spanning 241 MPAs and analyzed these across 16 ecological and social pathways through which MPAs could contribute to climate change mitigation and adaptation. Our meta-analysis demonstrates that marine conservation can significantly enhance carbon sequestration, coastal protection, biodiversity, and the reproductive capacity of marine organisms as well as fishers’ catch and income. Most of these benefits are only achieved in fully or highly protected areas and increase with MPA age. Although MPAs alone cannot offset all climate change impacts, they are a useful tool for climate change mitigation and adaptation of social-ecological systems.
One Earth, Volume 5, 21 October 2022,