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Mediterranean seagrass vulnerable to regional climate warming

Abstract

The Mediterranean Sea, one of the regions warming fastest under climate change1,2, harbours lush seagrass (Posidonia oceanica) meadows that form the basis for a key ecosystem in the region3. Recent field results have shown that increased maximum annual seawater temperature in the Mediterranean has already led to increased seagrass mortality4. Here we project the trajectory of P. oceanica meadows under the warming expected in the western Mediterranean through the twenty-first century to conclude that warming will lead to the functional extinction of P. oceanica meadows by the middle of this century (year 2049±10) even under a relatively mild greenhouse-gas emissions scenario. Efforts to alleviate local stresses adding to the loss of P. oceanica meadows will have a limited effect in conserving the meadows under climate change. Efforts to mitigate climate change are urgently needed to preserve this key ecosystem.

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Figure 1: Annual SSTmax in the Balearic Islands region projected for the twenty-first century.
Figure 2: Percentage of P. oceanica shoot density in the twenty-first century.

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Acknowledgements

This study was financially supported by project SESAME of the 7th Framework Programme of the EU (contract number 036949), projects VANIMEDAT-2 and MEDEICG of the Spanish Marine Science and Technology Program (CTM2009-10163-C02-01 and CTM2009-07013, respectively), the ESCENARIOS project (funded by the Agencia Estatal de Meteorologı´a) and the E-Plan of the Spanish Government. G.J. was supported by a ‘JAE-DOC’ contract from the Spanish Research Council (CSIC).

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Contributions

G.J., N.M. and C.M.D. conceived and designed the study, discussed the results and wrote the manuscript and Supplementary Information. G.J. wrote the code, ran the model and analysed output data.

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Correspondence to Núria Marbà.

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The authors declare no competing financial interests.

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Jordà, G., Marbà, N. & Duarte, C. Mediterranean seagrass vulnerable to regional climate warming. Nature Clim Change 2, 821–824 (2012). https://doi.org/10.1038/nclimate1533

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