The Mediterranean Sea is becoming “tropicalised” at an alarming rate, with temperatures rising much faster than the global average, according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature (WWF).
arine scientists warn the warming waters are attracting unwelcome new arrivals – including 986 invasive species of tropical marine life that are en route via the Suez Canal.
Fishermen in the northern Italian waters of Liguria are catching more and more barracuda and dusky groupers, which scientists say can now reproduce in more northerly latitudes.
Meanwhile, voracious rabbit fish are grazing down native vegetation in the eastern Mediterranean. “The Mediterranean of today is not the same as it used to be,” said Giuseppe Di Carlo, director of WWF’s Mediterranean Marine Initiative, which warned about irreversible climate change in the Mediterranean this week.
“Its tropicalisation is well under way.”
The WWF report found that temperatures in the Mediterranean Sea are rising 20pc faster than the global average, making it one of the fastest-warming and saltiest seas on Earth.
The Med’s waters are now so warm, some native fish are shifting north in search of cooler waters, while of alien species are displacing indigenous species.
The Lionfish is a prime example. A single specimen was caught in Israel in 1991. Two decades later, it is being found in Lebanon, Cyprus, Turkey, Greece, Tunisia, Syria, Italy and Libya. It is now headed west, scientists say, toward the Aegean and Ionian seas – gobbling up native fish species.
Other concerns include recurrent jellyfish blooms and changes in the seafloor, with declines of posidonia meadows, gorgonian corals and pinna nobilis.
The WWF said: “Losing these species would have dramatic impacts on the whole marine ecosystem as they provide vital habitats for many species, for the climate as some of them function as natural carbon sinks.”
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