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The Mediterranean Sea

The Mediterranean Sea represents an important part of the world's marine biodiversity (7,5% of fauna and 18% of flora) with only 0,8% of the ocean surface.

It holds second place in the world for its wealth in endemic species, in heritage species (monk seals, loggerhead turtles, 18 species of cetaceans, etc.) and in species of great commercial value such as bluefin tuna and swordfish.

An endangered sea

Currently, most Mediterranean marine habitats are in danger. There are at least 81 marine animal endangered species[1] such as the Monk Seal, the Brown Grouper, or the Loggerhead Sea Turtle. Certain ecosystems, like the Posidonia meadow, which plays a very important role in the Mediterranean ecological balance, are also seeing their surface area constantly diminish. Global changes, including global warming generated by human activity are the main cause.

Climate change poses a great threat to the Mediterranean Sea and its impacts are extremely diverse. The effects intersect and mutually amplify, in particular they increase the effects of coastal activities and developments. Changes linked to climate change (temperatures, precipitation, winds, increase in carbon dioxide content, rise in sea level, etc.), combined with those linked to man (pollution, coastline, overexploitation of natural resources, introduction of alien species) are impacting and will increasingly impact both socio-economic sectors and natural systems.

Climate change and its effects on the marine and coastal areas are now noticeable. The 4th IPCC report [2] estimates an increase in atmospheric temperatures of between 3 and 4 ° C by the end of the century (probability of 50%), which should lead to an increase in water temperature. The rise in temperatures will undoubtedly have consequences on marine biodiversity, such as modification of reproduction periods, the length of growth phases, the appearance of new diseases or parasites. The planned changes therefore risk causing changes in the distribution of species and population densities through displacement of habitats. Thus a change in the composition of the majority of current ecosystems is probable. [3]

Moreover, the risk of extinction of species, especially those already vulnerable, are likely to increase significantly, particularly for species with the climatic range is restricted, those who have very specific needs habitat and / or small populations naturally more vulnerable to changes in their habitats.

Finally the introduction of new exotic species could be facilitated, a phenomenon whose long-term consequences are difficult to predict.

 Human activity generated by 150 200 million people and millions of tourists annually, is growing from year to year. By 2020 expected increase in urbanization - 33 million people to sleep - and tourism - 270 million visitors and more. The environmental pressure that results - marine and coastal pollution, artificial and / or coastal erosion, habitat fragmentation, and declining fish stocks - will follow the same upward movement.
There is a striking contrast between the demographic situations of the countries of northern and southern Mediterranean. Those from the north shore are facing the problem of an aging population while in the countries south and east, population growth remains a major challenge. here is expected 2050 40% increased the number of inhabitants in the countries of southern and eastern Mediterranean.

Demogr map

Climate change appears to play an important role in the loss of biodiversity [4]. The average warming of coastal surface waters in the northwestern Mediterranean is estimated at 1 ° C between 1974 and 2004 [5], and for deep waters, an increase of 0,12 ° C is observed in 40 years. Mediterranean Sea warming scenarios predict an increase of 3,1 ° C by the end of the 21st century [6]. The consequences are still poorly determined. However, the appearance and adaptation of exotic species that are sometimes invasive in temperate zones [7] and [8], the massive mortality of certain species of gorgonians and sponges following these strong increases in temperature [9], and the facilitated installation of warm-water fish in the northern Mediterranean basin [10], suggest an impact far from negligible both in terms of living species on the surface and those living in the depths [11]. By way of example [12], it is estimated that 99 species of fish, 63 species of crustaceans and 137 species of exotic molluscs have recently settled in the Mediterranean, either by passing through the Suez Canal or the Strait of Gibraltar, or by accidental or intentional introduction.

What actions?


Meanwhile, scientists are working to find solutions. They participate in the establishment of marine protected areas, thus favoring the integrity of communities and habitats. There are now 116 marine protected areas in the western basin of the Mediterranean. However, lack of human and financial resources dramatically slows the advance of knowledge, especially regarding the evaluation of responses, adaptations and vulnerability of Mediterranean ecosystems to global changes.

It is rather difficult to assess the impact of global change on Mediterranean marine biodiversity. We can mainly attribute this difficulty to fragmentary data from various scientific studies conducted around the Mediterranean, and the efforts of search and recovery still weak. wildlife inventories and marine life are rarely updated, and reducing the number of naturalists in research laboratories prevents the long-term monitoring of animal and plant populations. The need is felt yet, because these places are a reflection of the states as the basis for projections about the future of the Mediterranean marine biodiversity.

In order to be able to cope with changes in biodiversity, decision-makers and managers need the most reliable “inventory” possible. The scientific community is called upon and awaited in order to answer the various questions raised by global changes. The long-term and large-scale study of Mediterranean marine biodiversity is a necessity for the development of scientifically reliable estimators and projections.

Associations and NGOs

So far, actions in favor of the Mediterranean have mainly focused on a few emblematic marine species (whales, groupers, rays / sharks, seahorses, jellyfish). These represent nearly 80% of current programs. Numerous associative actions of education to the marine environment are also put in place around the Mediterranean basin. They are gradually bearing fruit, promoting public and media awareness of the marine environment.

Our participatory science program, Cybelle Méditerranée, is dedicated to wildlife living off the Mediterranean coast.

How about citizen science?

Many volunteers, passionate about marine fauna and flora, are experienced naturalists, ready to give their time and energy to the advancement of knowledge. This potential is exploited for a long time through citizen science project, much more developed on land. For example, the STOC [13] program (temporal monitoring of common birds) established since 1989, allowed for the first time in France a quantitative estimation of changes of population numbers of 89 common bird species on period 1989-2001 (13 years).

The marine area, still too little known, covers about 94% of our entire country. Yet participatory science programs focused on the sea are still few (about 20% of the programs listed in France). This figure reflects a historical context where citizen science on land were born there more than a century, against a fifteen year Marine. Also note that the material constraints at sea are quite high, if only for the practice of sailing.

In recent years new participatory programs in the Mediterranean Sea have emerged and this trend tends to accelerate.

> Discover our participatory science program at sea

> Find out more about participatory science



[1] The international red list of endangered species is published by IUCN and available online
[2] IPCC 2007. 2007 Assessment of Climate Change: Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Geneva, IPCC.
[3] UNEP-MAP-RAC / 2010. Impact of climate change on biodiversity in the Mediterranean Sea. S. Ben Haj and A. Limam / RAC Edit, Tunis. 1-28.
[4] Harley CDG et al. (2006) The impacts of climate change in coastal marine systems. Ecology Letters (9) 228-241.
[5] Salat J. & Pascual J. 2002. The oceanographic and meteorological station at L'Estartit (NW Mediterranean). CIESM Workshop Monographs n ° 16, Tracking long-term hydrological change in Mediterranean Sea, Monaco, April 22-24, 2002, 31-34.
[6] Somot et al. (2006) Transient climate change scenario simulations of the Mediterranean Sea of ​​the twenty-first century using a high resolution ocean circulation model. Climate Dynamics (27) 851-879.
[7] Icchipinti-Ambrogi A. (2007) Global Change and Marine Communities: Alien Species and Climate Change. Marine Pollution Bulletin (55) 342-352.
[8] Galil BS (2007) Loss or Gain? Invasive alien and biodiversity in the Mediterranean sea. Marine Pollution Bulletin (55) 314-322.
[9] Pérez T., et al. (2000) massive marine invertebrates mortality: an unprecedented event in the Mediterranean North West. CR Acad. Sci. Paris, III series, 323, 853-865.
[10] Laubier L. et al. (2004). Global change and vulnerability of coastal marine ecosystems. The case of the north-western Mediterranean. 2emes day IFB, Marseille, 25-28 May 76-77.
[11] Danovaro et al. (2004) Biodiversity response to climate change in a warm deep sea. Ecology Letters (7) 821-828.
[12] CIESM Atlas of exotic species in the Mediterranean (2005) (Read more)
[13] STOC, temporal monitoring of common birds is coordinated by the Center for Research on the Birds of Population Biology (Read more)