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North-South Prize of the Council of Europe: the “Mediterranean IPCC” sounds the alarm!

​Created in 2015, the independent network MedECC (Mediterranean Experts on Climate and Environmental Change) has published its first evaluation report, MAR1 (Mediterranean Assessment Report), accompanied by a summary for policy-makers. This publication earned the group the Council of Europe's North-South 2020 Prize. Read on for a close-up on 'Ecosystems', a chapter from the report that features an LSCE researcher as lead author.

Published on 13 January 2021

​Bordered by densely populated regions, the Mediterranean Sea is a semi-enclosed, nutrient-poor basin that suffers from particularly high anthropogenic pressure.

Since the early 1980s, average surface temperatures have increased throughout the basin by +0.29 to +0.44°C per decade – most strongly in the east, the Adriatic, the Aegean, the Levant and the northeast Ionian Sea – and marine heatwaves have become longer and more intense.

Over the course of the 21st century, surface waters could warm by 2.7°C to 3.8°C under the RCP8.5 scenario, and by 1°C to 2.1°C for RCP4.5. Marine heatwaves will likely become widespread, as well as longer and more intense than today.

Due to its more alkaline and more rapidly ventilated deep waters, the Mediterranean can absorb relatively more anthropogenic CO2 per unit area than the global ocean system. Since the beginning of the 19th century, the pH of its surface waters has decreased by 0.08 units, in line with the global ocean system, whereas the acidification of its deep waters is greater than the global average.

A number of scenarios forecast a stratification of the water in horizontal layers due to surface water warming, which will reduce nutrient inputs by vertical mixing. This will lead to a decrease in primary productivity that will become even more sensitive to external nutrient input across the Strait of Gibraltar for the western basin, and through river inputs for the eastern basin.

Climatic and biogeochemical conditions (warming, acidification and water pollution) induced by human activities, together with unsustainable fishing practices and the invasion of non-native species, are all threats to marine food production. These factors can affect the distribution of species and could lead, by 2050, to the local extinction of more than 20% of fish and marine invertebrates, as well as a general loss of biodiversity due to the physiological and ecological alteration of most marine organisms.

It is still possible to mitigate these impacts by improving conservation within and beyond marine protected areas, and by adopting more sustainable fishing practices.

Click here to view the report.

The North-South Prize of the Council of Europe 

This annual prize is awarded to two public figures who stand out for their deep commitment and exceptional achievements. The recipients have distinguished themselves by the hope they have inspired regarding the protection of human rights, the defense of pluralist democracies, and the promotion of North-South partnership and solidarity. This is the first time it has been awarded to organizations. Previous recipients include Stéphane Hessel, Kofi Annan, and Simone Veil.

Click here for more information.

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