Prolonged, above-average temperatures battering the Mediterranean Sea are warning this week that scientists are causing a “marine forest fire” that could permanently alter the ecosystem and lead to species extinction.
David Diaz from the Spanish Oceanographic Institute said The world such ocean heat waves were “the equivalent of undersea forest fires, with flora and fauna dying as if scorched”.
The region experienced an extreme heat wave this month, producing record air temperatures and weak winds, causing a much warmer and deeper layer of ocean surface water.
As Reuters reported, “Warmer air together with changing ocean currents and a stable sea surface warmed coastal Mediterranean waters several degrees Celsius above the average temperature of 24°C to 26°C for this period of the year. ‘year.”
Some of the highest water temperatures were recorded on the eastern coast of Corsica which reached a peak of 30.7°C in July — more than 6°C warmer than normal for this time of year. The Spanish Balearic Islands and the Italian coast saw an increase of 5°C.
“Keep in mind that water has more than 4 times the heat capacity of air, which means water is much harder to heat up than air.” tweeted Colin McCarthy of his US account StormWatch. “A sea surface temperature anomaly of 6.2°C in the Mediterranean is nothing short of amazing.”
The Mediterranean Sea is considered a biodiversity hotspot by scientists – representing less than 1% of the surface of the world’s oceans but inhabited by around 10% of all marine species.
Rubén del Campo of Spain’s national meteorological service said The world that the native populations of the Mediterranean “of corals, shells and fish suffer enormously”.
The Mediterranean is home to up to 20,000 marine species of fauna and flora, 25% of which are native to the region. The endemic sea grasses Posidonia and Neptune play a vital role in the ecosystem by storing carbon – one hectare of grass is capable of absorbing 15 times more carbon dioxide each year than a similar sized piece of the Amazon forest.
Marseille-based marine ecologist Emilie Villar told the Provence 700 Mediterranean species are threatened with extinction and “if the shock lasts too long, or if the species is frozen and cannot migrate, others will fill the void or, if the conditions become too harsh, the Mediterranean risks s ‘switch off”.
A recent study published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B found that marine heat waves associated with the climate crisis have already destroyed up to 90% of coral populations in parts of the Mediterranean. Additionally, a World Wildlife Fund Last year’s report “found that water temperatures in the Mediterranean were rising 20% faster than the global average, making it the fastest warming sea in the world”.
Karina von Schuckmann, an oceanographer with the non-profit research group Mercator Ocean International, said: “Since at least 2003 [marine heatwaves] have become more frequent and in the future they will last longer, cover more sea and be more intense and severe.”
Schuckmann said the most effective course of action to mitigate marine heatwaves is for governments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to global warming.