Greenpeace report: the climate crisis impoverishes the Italian seas

Data from the third report of the ‘Mare Caldo’ project, conducted by researchers from the Department of Earth, Environmental and Life Sciences (Distav) of the University of Genoa, to monitor the impacts of the climate crisis on Italian seas

The third report of the ‘Mare Caldo’ project, published by Greenpeace Italia and conducted by researchers from the Department of Earth, Environmental and Life Sciences (Distav) of the University of Genoa to monitor the impacts of the climate crisis on Italian seas, confirms a generalized increase in temperatures with evident consequences on the flora and fauna of the Mediterranean and an intensification of extreme climatic events.

In the first three years of the Mare Caldo project, more than one million temperature data points were analyzed in nine study areas, where several particularly warm periods were observed. The analyzes of data relating to biological monitoring, conducted in seven study areas, highlighted various signs attributable to the effects of global warming and changes, probably irreversible, in all the reef communities investigated.

“The increase in temperatures is causing dramatic changes in marine biodiversity, from the disappearance of the most sensitive species characteristic of our sea to the invasion of others, often alien, which are better adapted to an increasingly warmer sea”, declares Monica Montefalcone, researcher of the Seascape Ecology Lab of the Distav.

In the months between June and September 2022 on the Island of Elba and in the protected marine area of ​​Portofino, the two areas for which three years of data are available, thermal anomalies of up to 2°C more were recorded at 10 -15 m depth compared to the monthly averages of previous years. In all the monitored areas, signs of bleaching and necrosis were observed in various species such as gorgonians, the madrepora Cladocora caespitosa and encrusting coralline algae, attributable to the warming of the waters. The protected marine area of ​​Capo Carbonara and the Island of Elba are the areas where the greatest impacts on gorgonians have been observed. At Capo Carbonara, in particular, 50% of the red gorgonian colonies showed signs of necrosis. On the Island of Elba, the frequency of mortality of the madrepore Cladocora caespitosa has also increased. Finally, in the protected marine areas of Capo Carbonara and Torre Guaceto, the signs of excavation of encrusting coralline algae have reached worrying percentages of 65% and 45% respectively.

On the Adriatic side, in the protected marine area of ​​Miramare, in Trieste, the northernmost one of the Mare Caldo project network, mass die-off events of the bivalve mollusc Pinna nobilis were recorded, involving all Mediterranean populations of this species as of 2018. In the southernmost marine protected areas, the greatest number of thermophilic species (adapted to warm waters) has been recorded, the potential increase of which, combined with the spread of alien species, could lead to an impoverishment of native communities.

“Our sea is paying a high price: it becomes increasingly poor but also increasingly dangerousbecause the heat that accumulates in the sea contributes to fueling increasingly extreme climatic phenomena – said Alessandro Giannì, head of Greenpeace Italy Campaigns – The effects of the climate crisis and thermal anomalies are evident in all monitoring areas, regardless of the geographical location or the level of conservation of the sites”.