Eco-threat for the Med

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photo by Ed Bierman, Flickr
MARINE LIFE: The ecosystem of the Mediterranean Sea is changing due to climate change.

THE local marine ecosystem as we know it could be changing.

Climate change has led to the warmest and driest winter since records began, according to climatologists, with the effects also being felt locally along the Mediterranean, where there has been a rise in temperature of three degrees Celsius.

Sea water along the coast from December to March was around two degrees warmer than average this year. This increase poses a threat to the native species, as invasive varieties are adapting better to the warm waters of the Mediterranean.

Marine Biologist Mercedes Varela also said the Suez Canal expansion has had a “devastating” effect on the marine ecosystem, because alien species have come to the Mediterranean, creating competition for local species.

The varieties most affected by temperature increases are corals and lobsters, as they are species which require colder water. Rising sea temperatures have also seen Posidonia (sea grass) flourish in November in areas like Cabo de Gata, Almeria. The algae is used as a bio-indicator of the quality of the sea as it only grows in clean marine waters, but it can equally spike in population, suffocating other species.

Professor Alfonso Ramos of the University of Alicante estimates that around 800 exotic species have come through the Suez Canal in the last 50 years, of which about 80 can be considered invasive, causing potential harm to the environment and other native species as they alter or modify the natural habitat. He said of the invasion: “It is virtually impossible to combat or control these species”.

Meanwhile the Marine Research Centre (CIMAR) of Santa Pola has sent a sheet of alien species to local fishermen’s associations in the province to have a better knowledge of what is harmful and what is not.

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