A new study led by the UB (Universitat de Barcelona) and the Institute of Marine Sciences (ICM-CSIC) has stated that marine heatwaves are having a strong impact on the “coral communities” of the Mediterranean.
The study states the loss of the few species that bring structural complexity to these coralline communities. An example of this is the gorgonian coral, which acts as forest trees and offers shelter to a great amount of marine species. According to the study, published in the journal Ecology Letters, gorgonians have been severely affected over the last years by marine heatwaves in the Mediterranean.
“Gorgonians are sensitive to the climate change. In fact, their abundance has been reduced by 93% in some of the sampled sites where heatwaves have impacted. This is worrying because gorgonians provide the three-dimensional structure that allows more than 1600 species to exist”, says Daniel Gómez-Gras, predoctoral researcher at ICM-CSIC and the UB.
To carry out this study, researchers analysed the results from monitoring programs in the Port-Cros National Park and the Scandola Natural Reserve (France), two of the oldest protected marine areas of the Mediterranean, effective on protection and conservation of natural resources.
Among the collaborators in the study were the teams of the University of Hawaii System (United States) and the University of Saint Andrews (Scotland, United Kingdom).
The results of the study stress the devastating effects of the climate change, both inside and outside the protected areas, in habitats that are essential for marine life in the Mediterranean.