coral reef Eilat
coral reef in Israel's waters
Photo: Reuters
The waters off the coast of Israel are among the hottest in the Mediterranean and they have already warmed 3C within four decades

Warming driving marine life off the coast of Israel to collapse, study says

Local populations struggle as water temperature on Israeli shelf in the eastern Mediterranean warms 3 degrees Celsius within four decades, invasive species migrate from the Red Sea

AFP |
Published: 01.07.21 , 13:36
Populations of marine mollusks have collapsed in recent decades in parts of the eastern Mediterranean as warming waters have made conditions unsuitable for native species, new research showed Wednesday.
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  • The waters off the coast of Israel - among the hottest in the Mediterranean - have already warmed three degrees Celsius within four decades, with water temperatures regularly topping 30C (86 Fahrenheit) in summer.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    The waters off the coast of Israel are among the hottest in the Mediterranean and they have already warmed 3C within four decades
    The waters off the coast of Israel are among the hottest in the Mediterranean and they have already warmed 3C within four decades
    The waters off the coast of Israel are among the hottest in the Mediterranean and they have already warmed 3C within four decades
    (Photo: AFP)
    An international team of researchers, writing in the journal Proceedings of Royal Society B, investigated the effect these warmer waters was having on local populations of marine mollusks, as well as the arrival of invasive species from the Red Sea via the Suez Canal.
    Paolo Albano, from the University of Vienna's Department of Paleontology, initially set out to contrast populations of local and non-native species along the Israeli shelf in the eastern Mediterranean.
    But he quickly realized the extent to which local mollusk populations had declined.
    "My expectation was to find a Mediterranean ecosystem with these 'newcomers'," he told AFP.
    "However, after the first dive, I immediately realized that the problem was another one: the lack of the native Mediterranean species, even the most common ones that you would find everywhere in the Mediterranean."
    Local 'eradication of species'
    Albano and his colleagues compared mollusk populations identified from more than 100 seabed samples with historical records, finding that only 12 percent of the mollusks historically present in shallow sediment were still there.
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    The Suez Canal
    The Suez Canal
    The Suez Canal
    (Photo: AP)
    On rocky reefs, that figure stood at just five percent.
    The team also estimated that 60 percent of the remaining mollusk populations studied do not reach reproductive size, rendering the region a "demographic sink" for some species.
    Albano said that while other factors could be playing a role in these population collapses, not least the impact of non-native species and pollution, the overall trend was likely caused by warming seas.
    "Tolerance to temperature is what really matters here and most of the native Mediterranean species are in the easternmost Mediterranean Sea at the limits of their tolerance to temperature," he said.
    In contrast to local mollusks, populations of tropical species entering the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal were thriving.
    3 צפייה בגלריה
    coral reef Eilat
    coral reef Eilat
    coral reef in Israel's waters
    (Photo: Reuters)
    This species turnover is causing the onset of a "novel ecosystem", the authors said, and the massive loss of native species is likely too significant to rectify.
    Albano said the Eastern Mediterranean was "paradigmatic of what is happening in marine ecosystems due to global warming: species respond to warming by shifting their ranges and in some areas this means local eradication of species."
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