An ECOPOTENTIAL Protected Area: Mediterranean Large Marine Ecosystem

The Mediterranean Sea is a Large Marine Ecosystem and the largest enclosed sea in the world. Its 46,000 km coastline spans many countries across three continents (Europe, Africa and Asia). Rich in marine life and other features, it is estimated to host between 4 per cent and 18 per cent of the planet’s macroscopic marine organisms. It provides many valuable goods and ecosystem services to society, including coastal protection, food, tourism, recreational opportunities and many more.

The Mediterranean Sea’s fish and other living resources supply the fishery and aquaculture sectors, which may be threatened by human activities, especially under changing climate conditions.

Monitoring seawater conditions is therefore of paramount importance for scientists and the Marine Protected Area managers, who are involved in the conservation of marine natural resources. For example, changes in seawater temperature affect the delivery of ecosystems services such as food provision, as seawater temperature influences the activity and health of fish, including their feeding, reproduction, movement and distribution.

Through the use of Earth Observation (by examining over 12,000 images) and other tools, the ECOPOTENTIAL project team has observed that over the past few decades, the Mediterranean Sea has become progressively warmer, which has favoured the establishment of invasive species, and that in the near future, the Mediterranean Sea will become progressively warmer, affecting the movement and distribution of fish and thereby generating new food-provision scenarios.