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Mediterranean Turning into Tropical Sea, WWF Warns

Mediterranean could turn into tropical sea
A beach on the Greek island of Lesvos. Credit: Jordan Kapantais / CC BY-SA 4.0

The Mediterranean is turning into a tropical sea due to rising global temperatures, the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) warned in a report published recently.

The Italian branch of the WWF says that due to the climate crisis nearly 1,000 exotic species have adapted to live in its waters — replacing endemic species.

This finding confirms reports by Greek scientists that alien fish species from the Red Sea have “invaded” the Aegean and the Ionian Seas over the last several years.

Tropical sea temperatures?

The study found that with temperatures rising 20 percent faster than the global average and sea levels also rising — they are projected to have risen one meter by 2100 — the Mediterranean is becoming the saltiest and fastest-warming sea on the planet.

“Urgent action is needed to further mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and adapt to the new reality of a warming sea,” the WWF said.

“The scenarios presented by experts on the future of the Mediterranean, which speak of accelerating temperature rises and the entry of numerous alien species, the Mare Nostrum is at risk of changing face very quickly with inevitable consequences for communities. Now, more than ever, it is necessary to focus on the protected marine area, at least 30% by 2030,” the president of WWF Italy, Donatella Bianchi, said in a statement.

Deep waters of the Mediterranean Sea also affected

The study also notes that rising temperatures are also transforming the depths of deep waters in the Mediterranean. Endemic grasslands and Pinna nobilis have decreased throughout the region, eventually becoming completely extinct in some areas.

The loss of these species would have a dramatic impact on the entire marine ecosystem as they provide vital habitats for many species, produce benefits in the fight against climate change as some of them function as natural carbon sinks and also for our economy as they often attract divers and tourists, the study warns.

The maritime director of WWF Italy, Giulia Prato, said: “the Mediterranean sea today is no longer what it was. Its tropicalization is already advanced. Climate change is not a problem of the future, it is a reality that scientists, fishermen, divers, coastal communities and tourists are already experiencing today”.

The report says native mollusks have declined by almost 90% in Israeli waters, invasive species such as rabbitfish account for 80% of catches in Turkey, and southern species such as barracudas and brown groupers have become common sightings in the waters of northern Liguria (Italy).

Likewise, storms and higher temperatures are also transforming deep water depths and endemic forests of “posidonia”, “gorgonians” and “Pinna nobilis” have declined throughout the region, and have become completely extinct in some areas, such as in the Spanish Mediterranean.

“The loss of these species would have a dramatic impact on the entire marine ecosystem, as they provide vital habitats for many species, produce benefits in the fight against climate change, as some of them function as natural carbon sinks and also for our economy, as they often attract divers and tourists,” the WWF says.

Related: Why the Mediterranean is One of the Saltiest Seas in the World

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