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Marine production in north-western Mediterranean could rise due to climate change

04/26/2018, JRC

JRC scientists find in a recently published paper that significant changes in north-western Mediterranean productivity are likely due to climate change in the coming decades.
Marine production in north-western Mediterranean could rise due to climate change. © Damedias – stock.adobe.com zoom

The Mediterranean Sea is the largest semi-enclosed European sea. Due to its heterogeneity and isolation, it is home to many habitats and high levels of biodiversity, which provide and sustain natural services and resources such as fisheries.

Fisheries in the Mediterranean Sea provide around 314 000 direct jobs, and the north- western Mediterranean Sea is currently one of the most biologically productive regions in the basin.

However, fish stocks are in steady decline due to overfishing, pollution and climate change.

The authors used a JRC Modelling Framework (that includes the atmosphere, rivers and the ocean) to study the current environmental status of Mediterranean ecosystems in the region.

They then used this to explore how both the physical conditions and associated marine productivity is likely to change by 2030 under different climate scenarios.

They found that, due to fundamental changes in the physical characterises of the region, marine production will likely be modified both in terms of maximum values and its seasonal cycle, with the result that production will increase in the open-sea areas, especially during the summer, the more biologically poor period.

Such changes to the food web could have profound implications for marine life in the higher trophic levels, which are typically abundant in this region. For example, more production in summer could mean more food for higher-trophic-level animals (such as marine mammals (whales, dolphins) and tuna) which tend to concentrate in this area during the summer months.

The Modelling Framework has been shown to be an effective tool for providing forecast simulations of climate change impacts on marine ecosystems within a time frame of about 20 years.

This model could therefore be highly relevant for both managers and policymakers.

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