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Researchers identify the most threatened areas by human activity in the Mediterranean Sea

According to the study, published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports, the most affected areas are more potentially vulnerable to environmental changes associated with global warming. Photo: Javier Díaz.

According to the study, published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports, the most affected areas are more potentially vulnerable to environmental changes associated with global warming. Photo: Javier Díaz.

The Adriatic Sea, the Aegean Sea, the African coast or the Catalan sea are among the most affected areas. Foto: Javier Díaz.

The Adriatic Sea, the Aegean Sea, the African coast or the Catalan sea are among the most affected areas. Foto: Javier Díaz.

04/10/2018

Recerca

A study led by the expert Francisco Ramírez, from the Faculty of Biology and the Biodiversity Research Institute of the University of Barcelona (IRBio), analysed and distributed the existing information on several impacts that are simultaneously affecting the Mediterranean Sea: from climate impacts like the rise of temperatures in the sea, to the fishing pressure on natural resources or changes in physical and chemical conditions. The result is a map of the places that are most affected by human activity such as the Adriatic Sea, the Aegean Sea, the African coast and the Catalan sea, among others. According to the researchers, this information will enable identifying areas that need local action to minimize the impacts of a global problem such as climate change.

The new study has been published in the scientific journal Scientific Reports and is signed by Marta Coll and Joan Navarro, from the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC), and Javier Bustamante and Andy J. Green, from the Doñana Biological Station (EBD-CSIC).

Safe operating spaces

The study is framed within the concept of Safe Operating Spaces (SOS), which determines a multidimensional space in which we would find an ecosystem and is delimited by several kinds of impacts such as pollution, fishing, or the temperature of water. In order for this ecosystem to be in the right conditions, magnitude of the impacts should not exceed certain thresholds, therefore, if the magnitude of an impact increases, the thresholds of the others decrease and vice-versa. “If we delimit a SOS out of climate and human impacts, this means that, when reducing anthropic pressure, the threshold for climate impacts would increase and therefore, the ecosystem’s ability to resist environmental impacts related to climate change would increase”, says Francisco Ramírez.

To spatially delimit the potential impacts that would affect the Mediterranean Sea, researchers combined several methodologies and databases such as the largest temporary series of remote sensing –satellite images- that provide data on the temperature of the marine surface. They also used data on the distribution of the fishing pressure provided by Global Fishing Watch. “When these impacts are overlapped we identify those marine areas that are specially threatened and that need special attention if we want to preserve resources and biodiversity”, notes the researcher.

Local measures to mitigate climate change effects

According to the study, those areas that are affected by human impact would be more potentially vulnerable to climate change. In particular, the results show that there are certain areas that are more vulnerable such as the Adriatic Sea, the Aegean Sea, the African coast and the Catalan sea, where fishing intensity is high. If we add the rise of temperatures in the sea, caused by global warming, the result is that there will be species of commercial interest like the sardine, which will be particularly affected, since they are very sensitive to the rise of temperatures. “Knowing how to distribute these threats can help management of several activities like fishing. For instance, it can regulate these activities in affected areas or move fishing to areas that are less affected by other threats”, notes Francisco Ramírez.

This estimation allows researchers proving where to stop local action to minimize the impacts of a global problem like climate change. “Local administrations cannot fight climate change by themselves, since it requires the consensus and action of all the international community. However, working on other local impacts, we can reduce the “vulnerability” of certain areas and ecosystems regarding the climate change. We are not saying not to fight global warming, but on the short and mid run, a potential measure of mitigation would go over managing these other local impacts”, conclude the researchers.

Article reference:

Ramírez, F.; Coll, M.; Mavarro, J.; Bustamente, J.; Green, A. J. “Spatial congruence between multiple stressors in the Mediterranean Sea may reduce its resilience to climate impacts”. Scientific Reports, 2018. Doi:

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