Climate scientists have called for at least 30 percent of the oceans to be protected, warning that a series of heat waves in the Mediterranean could have severe consequences for marine life.

From Barcelona to Tel Aviv, temperatures are 3-5 degrees Celsius above normal at this time of year. According to scientists, the water temperature of the Mediterranean Sea regularly exceeds 30 degrees Celsius on some days.

Ocean heat waves are caused by ocean currents that create warm water surfaces. Weather systems and atmospheric heat can increase water temperatures. However, ocean heat waves, like land heat waves, have become longer, more frequent and more intense due to human-induced climate change.

According to Joachim Garrabo, a researcher at the Institute of Marine Sciences in Barcelona, ​​the situation is very worrying and urgent intervention is needed to reduce the effects of climate change.

Karabou is also a member of a research team that recently published a report on heat waves in the Mediterranean between 2015 and 2019. As they asserted, these events were devastating for marine life.

The Global Change Biology According to a study published in the journal, about 50 species, including corals, seaweeds and seaweeds, have suffered extinction along thousands of kilometers of Mediterranean coastline.

The situation is particularly dire in the eastern basin of the Mediterranean Sea. The waters off the coasts of Israel, Cyprus, Lebanon and Syria are among the warmest places in the Mediterranean, said Gil Rilov, a marine biologist at Israel’s Institute of Marine and Freshwater Research and one of the study’s co-authors. The average summer temperature of the water surface has recently been permanently above 31 degrees Celsius, he said.

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According to the researchers, biodiversity is expected to decline in the waters around Greece, Italy and Spain in the western part of the Mediterranean Sea in the coming years.

Garrabou reminded us that the oceans absorb 30 percent of the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere by fossil fuels and 90 percent of the Earth’s excess heat. It protects the planet from harsh climate effects. However, oceans and seas can only provide this protection in a healthy way, and recently “we have brought the oceans to an unhealthy and dysfunctional state,” he asserted.

The researchers say policymakers should guarantee that 30 percent of ocean areas are protected from human activities, such as fishing, to give species a chance to regenerate and thrive.

Currently, only 8 percent of the Mediterranean Sea is protected.

Land heat waves have become commonplace in many Mediterranean countries, with droughts, crop losses and forest fires. However, according to scientists, ocean heat waves will have serious consequences for the countries bordering the Mediterranean Sea and the more than 500 million people who live there. As destructive storms are likely to make landfall more often, fisheries will decline and tourism will be negatively affected.

Although the Mediterranean Sea covers less than one percent of Earth’s water surface, the region is an important habitat for marine biodiversity, containing between 4 and 18 percent of known marine species.

Some of the most vulnerable species are important in maintaining the diversity of marine habitats. As a result of warming, species such as Neptune grass (Positonia oceanica), which absorb large amounts of carbon dioxide and act as habitat, or coral reefs that are home to wildlife are dying.

The researchers examined the death of organisms from the surface to a depth of 45 meters, where recorded ocean heat waves were predominant. Heat waves affected more than 90 percent of the surface of the Mediterranean Sea.

The surface temperature of the Mediterranean Sea increased by 0.4°C per decade between 1982 and 2018. Over the past decade, it has increased by about 0.05 degrees Celsius per year. Experts stress that even a fraction of a degree could have a catastrophic effect on the health of the seas and oceans.

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According to the study, affected areas have increased since the 1980s and now cover much of the Mediterranean Sea.

“It’s not a question of whether nature will survive, because biodiversity will find a way to get back on its feet on the planet. The question is, if we continue in this direction, will there be a place in the world where our society and humanity can live,” Garraboo said.

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