Project Manaia

How climate change harms the Mediterranean

The Mediterranean is reaching a boiling point with climate change. Rising temperatures usually come to mind when thinking of climate change. But there is so much more to this phenomenon; there are droughts, record  floods, sea level rise, agricultural damage and risks to  human and wildlife well being. The Mediterranean  is facing all of these challenges.

A refresher on climate change

Climate change is the long lasting shift in  weather patterns and climate. Its consequences are vast. Droughts not only fan the flames of wildfires but also cause heart attacks and heatstroke. Flood waters make underwater attractions out of homes and other infrastructure while producing water-borne diseases in both animals and humans. 

With unusual weather patterns, farms suffer. Decreased agricultural output  impacts worker productivity, food availability and economies are affected. The Mediterranean is one of the most vulnerable regions in terms of global warming. In the Mediterranean the temperature rises at a rate 20% higher than the global average.

How climate change affects the Mediterranean

The entirety of the Mediterranean region is vulnerable to water scarcity and drought. Southern and eastern countries are already considered chronically water scarce. The situation will only worsen due to the erratic weather patterns.

Climate change and the sea

Around 30% of the carbon dioxide released from the burning of fossil fuels is absorbed in the ocean. This never ending absorption acidifies the water. The acidity of the water increases due to higher carbon dioxide concentrations in the sea .If current carbon dioxide emission rates continue, the acidity of Northwestern Mediterranean seawater will increase  by 30% by 2050 harming both fish and planktons.

Fossil fuels add carbon dioxide to the atmosphere and sea

Image by Chris LeBoutillier via Pexels

Coral reef destruction

Coral also happen to be very fragile. The Mediterranean is relies on coral to attract marine life but  small changes in water quality can destroy them. The Mediterranean sea is fast becoming the warmest and the saltiest sea in the world , the destruction of coral there feels imminent. Coral reefs are vital ecosystems. They provide food to marine life, and they also weaken storm surges; without them coastal erosion increases.

red gorgonian coral in the water.
Coral reefs are sensitive to temperature changes

Image by José  A. Moya via Pixabay

In addition, climate change leads to coral bleaching. Coral that experience coral bleaching may never recover. The destruction of coral reefs due to climate change also harms the marine species that live there.

Seagrass is on the decline

Seagrass meadows in the Mediterranean are  one of the most important species in the whole of the marine ecosystem. These meadows  oxygenate the ocean and provides a home for approximately  20% of marine species found in the Mediterranean.

Sea grass meadows are negatively impacted by climate change

Image by  Benjamin L. Jones via Unsplash

Just like coral reefs, seagrass meadows reduce the energy of waves and currents, stabilizing the seabed and securing sediment. The extinction of Seagrass meadows would  impact the entire marine ecosystem. The livelihoods of fishermen would also suffer. Due to the relocation of the marine species that rely on the meadows.  

Climate change brings invasive species

Thousands of Invasive species have found their way to the Mediterranean and they are multiplying in the ever warming waters. Jellyfish are populating the region now while native species like molluscs  are on a severe decline. Invaders like rabbit fish, barracudas and dusky groupers can now be spotted in northern Mediterranean waters.

Invasive species like jellyfish are populating the Mediterranean

Image by Pexels  via Pixabay

Coastal systems and low-lying areas

 In the Mediterranean, coastal areas will experience increased flooding, increased coastal erosion, and the possible loss of nesting beaches. Eventually, coastal erosion will produce inland migration of the beaches of the Mediterranean that are made of crushed shells and sediment coasts .Coastal erosion may also deter tourists ,thus hurting tourism sectors in Mediterranean countries. The heat will also act as a deterrent forcing tourists to rethink their trips to the Mediterranean region.

People at the beach on a hot day.
Coastal areas are a main attraction for tourists

Image by Ethan Hu  via Unsplash

Food security and food production systems

A high percentage of water demand in Mediterranean countries goes to agriculture. Droughts ,along with soil moisture loss and decreased water availability will have strong negative effects on crops and agriculture in general.

Drought will decrease the agricultural output of farms.

Image by Vladan Raznatovic via Unsplash

Can we curb  climate change?

Our best chance at fighting climate change is to lower emissions. This entails  using energy wisely. Better transportation, food  and energy choices can go a long way to maintain the health of the Mediterranean region.

Written by Ayanna Adams

References –

Mediterranean Is Turning into the Fastest Warming Sea with Irreversible Changes for Marine And. Accessed 30 May 2023.

Climate Change and Health. Accessed 23 May 2023.

“Climate Change | UNEPMAP QSR.”, Accessed 2 June 2023.

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