Stanford reflects on Earth Day at 50: Fiorenza Micheli

Fiorenza Micheli, co-director of the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, explains Marine Protected Areas’ ripple effects on natural ecosystems and people’s livelihoods.

Fiorenza Micheli is the David and Lucile Packard Professor of Marine Science in the School of Humanities and Sciences, co-director of the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions and a senior fellow at the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. Her research focuses on the processes shaping marine communities and coastal social-ecological systems, and incorporating this understanding in marine management and conservation.

Go to the web site to view the video.

Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment

To celebrate the 50th anniversary of Earth Day, Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions Co-Director, Fiorenzi Micheli reflects on the success Marine Protected Areas or MPAs.

What is an example of a major environmental success story related to oceans over the past 50 years?

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) – nationally designated zones that restrict human activity for conservation purposes – have yielded important benefits not only for our oceans and the many species that live there, but also for people by sustaining and recovering fisheries and tourism, sequestering carbon and increasing resilience to climate change impacts. President Theodore Roosevelt created the first one in 1903 – the Pelican Island National Refuge in Florida.


Why do you consider it of great significance/importance?

MPAs conserve, manage and protect vital marine resources that provide food, habitat, livelihoods, inspiration and coastal protection from climate change-related extreme weather events. MPAs now cover almost 8 percent of the world’s oceans.


What led to the change?

Increasing pressure on ocean ecosystems from climate change and acidification, coastal pollution, habitat conversion and overfishing led to a growing sense of urgency. Since the 1980s, a number of MPAs have been established in response to national policies and global commitments.


What lessons can we learn from this success story?

Global campaigns and commitments, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity, can mobilize bold action for conservation and inspire governments to do more. Also, it’s important to engage stakeholders in the protected areas’ implementation and monitoring and to establish inclusive and transparent processes to ensure protection is effective and benefits are realized. Co-design and co-management of MPAs by coastal communities in Mexico, Chile, Antarctica and other areas offer important models for successful implementation that delivers both ecological and socioeconomic benefits.