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Mediterranean is turning into the fastest warming sea with irreversible changes for marine and human life

Almost 1000 alien species have already migrated into the warming waters of the Mediterranean Sea and replaced endemic species, while increasingly extreme weather ravages fragile seagrass and coral beds, threatening cities and coastlines. Climate change has already transformed – sometimes irreversibly – some of the most important marine ecosystems of the Mediterranean, with consequences for economic sectors like fisheries and tourism, and changes in our fish consumption. Urgent action is needed to mitigate further greenhouse gas emissions and to adapt to the new reality of a warming sea.

Zagreb - With temperatures going up 20% faster than the global average, and sea level rises expected to exceed one meter by 2100, the Mediterranean is becoming the fastest-warming and the saltiest sea on our planet. WWF’s new report:“The Climate Change Effect in the Mediterranean: Stories from an overheating sea” shows six main impacts that climate change has on all marine biodiversity and the extent of the resulting mutations in key fish species and habitats with consequent impact on local livelihoods. WWF points out the dangerous relationship between climate-driven impact and existing human pressures on marine life, such as overfishing, pollution, coastal development, and shipping that have already dramatically reduced the ecological resilience of our sea.
 
“Adriatic sea, as well as and every other sea, is not an isolated system, which means that every pressure on Mediterranean appears in Adriatic too. The Adriatic sea is shallow and semi-enclosed, which increases the risk of serious and permanent damages caused by climate changes and intense human activities, such as tourism or fisheries. If we include exploitation of oil and gas, the pressure is immeasurably higher. By increasing the resilience of the Adriatic sea, we are taking care of our people because we are maritime-oriented nation. Taking care of our sea is our responsibility“, said Mosor Prvan from WWF Adria.
 
Warmer temperatures and storms are transforming deep-sea bottoms. Endemic Posidonia meadows, gorgonian corals and Pinna nobilis have declined across the whole region, becoming fully extinct in some areas. 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, and also for our economy as they often attract divers and tourists. Well managed marine protected areas can do a lot to reduce stress on the remaining populations as much as possible. 
 
Giuseppe Di Carlo, Director of WWF’s Mediterranean Marine Initiative said: “The Mediterranean of today is not the same as it used to be. Its tropicalization is well under way. Climate change is not in the future, it is a reality of today that scientists, fishers, divers, coastal communities and tourists are already experiencing. There is a lot at stake for the economy and the benefits that the Mediterranean Sea provides. If we want to reverse the current trend, we must reduce human pressure and build resilience. Healthy ecosystems and thriving biodiversity are our best natural defences against climate impacts.”
 
These cases clearly show the strong nexus between climate and ocean and the need for improved marine protection to restore biodiversity and fish stocks and rebuild the resilience of our sea. WWF is calling on global and Mediterranean leaders to ensure that stronger biodiversity and climate actions and financial mechanisms are agreed this year.
 
Further Information: 
- WWF MMI report: “The Climate Change Effect in the Mediterranean: Stories from an overheating sea” is available after embargo time on: www.wwfmmi.org 
- WWF is also releasing a new detailed paper on Ocean-Climate Policy, Blueprint for a Living Planet: Four Principles for Integrated Ocean-Climate Strategies (2021).

 
changes in our sea

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