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When scientists and policy-makers gathered in Poland this month for the United Nations Climate Change Conference, significant attention was paid to the effects of increased greenhouse gases on the oceans. The threats of sea level rise and warming sea temperatures, including the latter's impact on coral reefs by causing bleaching, received a major focus.

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Although ocean acidification will have effects throughout the world's oceans, most of the research on it so far has been in a tropical context, where its implications for coral reef health pose a major concern. Reduced pH levels of seawater are expected to lead to the breakdown of corals' calcium carbonate skeletons, causing significant and potentially irreversible changes in reef ecosystems.

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In September 2008, the conservation organization WWF held a series of workshops throughout the Baltic Sea region. The workshops were designed to provide lessons in marine spatial planning and management to Baltic decision-makers and stakeholders, and were noteworthy for at least two reasons. One, they featured people who had led a process to re-zone Australia's Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (MPA News 5:10) - a place quite different from the Baltic in many ways.

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At the World Conservation Congress last month, IUCN presented its new official definition for the term "protected area" (MPA News 10:4):

"A clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values."

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Professionals working at a range of bureaucratic levels in MPAs in the Western Indian Ocean now may get certified as a way to demonstrate their skills and experience. Developers of the Western Indian Ocean Certification Programme for Marine Protected Area Professionals, or WIO-COMPAS, anticipate eventually adapting and applying it to other regions worldwide.

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In a report published by the United Nations University this past July, a team of researchers concluded that most coastal management strategies in use worldwide were largely ineffective at stopping environmental degradation, and called for changes. The report Stemming Decline of the Coastal Ocean: Rethinking Environmental Management criticized most coastal and marine resource management efforts as fragmented and insufficiently based on science. MPAs received particular criticism.

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Editor's note: Trevor Ward is an adjunct senior research fellow at the University of Western Australia. Graham Edgar is an associate professor at the University of Tasmania. Hugh Possingham is professor of Mathematics and professor of Ecology at the University of Queensland.

By Trevor Ward, Graham Edgar, and Hugh Possingham

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