Global climate change amplifies the entry of tropical species into the eastern Mediterranean Sea

Raitsos, Dionysios E., Gregory Beaugrand, Dimitrios Georgopoulos, Argyro Zenetos, Antonietta M. Pancucci-Papadopoulou, Alexander Theocharis, and Evangelos Papathanassiou

Limnol. Oceanogr., 55(4), 2010, 1478-1484 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2010.55.4.1478

ABSTRACT: Using long-term data of 149 warm alien species since 1924, we show that the introduction of warm and tropical alien species has been exacerbated by the observed warming of the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The phenomenon has accelerated after an abrupt shift in both regional and global temperatures that we detect around 1998, leading to a 150% increase in the annual mean rate of species entry after this date. Abrupt rising temperature since the end of the 1990s has modified the potential thermal habitat available for warm-water species, facilitating their settlement at an unexpectedly rapid rate. The speed of alien species spreading and response to global warming is apparently much faster than temperature increase itself, presenting an important warning for the future of Mediterranean Sea biodiversity. In addition to the sea warming, other factors that enable and enhance biological invasions, such as salinity increase and oceanographic forcing, are also discussed.

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