Canada has committed to developing effective and representative marine conservation networks. Guidance for the development of these networks focuses on core design features, including the incorporation of ecologically and biologically significant areas, ecological representation, replication, connectivity, and adequacy/viability. Network planning u...
A key component of the global blue economy strategy is the sustainable extraction of marine resources and conservation of marine environments through networks of marine protected areas (MPAs). Connectivity and representativity are essential factors that underlie successful implementation of MPA networks, which can safeguard biological diversity and ecosystem function, and ultimately support the blue economy strategy by balancing ocean use with conservation. New “big data” omics approaches, including genomics and transcriptomics, are becoming essential tools for the development and maintenance of MPA networks. Current molecular omics techniques, including population-scale genome sequencing, have direct applications for assessing population connectivity and for evaluating how genetic variation is represented within and among MPAs. Effective baseline characterization and long-term, scalable, and comprehensive monitoring are essential for successful MPA management, and omics approaches hold great promise to characterize the full range of marine life, spanning the microbiome to megafauna across a range of environmental conditions (shallow sea to the deep ocean). Omics tools, such as eDNA metabarcoding can provide a cost-effective basis for biodiversity monitoring in large and remote conservation areas. Here we provide an overview of current omics applications for conservation planning and monitoring, with a focus on metabarcoding, metagenomics, and population genomics. Emerging approaches, including whole-genome sequencing, characterization of genomic architecture, epigenomics, and genomic vulnerability to climate change are also reviewed. We demonstrate that the operationalization of omics tools can enhance the design, monitoring, and management of MPAs and thus will play an important role in a modern and comprehensive blue economy strategy.