Climate change takes Mediterranean Sea life to new depths, study finds

As climate change impacts the environment, the world’s seas and oceans are among the most effective, damaging habitats for animals around the world. And in the Mediterranean Sea, it appears that many animals are forced to adapt, heading to deeper, colder waters to survive, according to a new study from Tel Aviv University (TAU).

According to the data, many species such as fish, crustaceans and mollusks such as squid are migrating to an average depth of 55 meters in the Mediterranean to avoid warming temperatures closer to sea level.

This depth is within the range of a temperature of 6 degrees Celsius.

Of course, not all of this was uniform. Cold-water species were naturally found deeper than warm-water species, for example.

Fish are seen swimming under the Mediterranean Sea, where climate change has forced many animals to swim to new depths. (credit: Courtesy of Tel Aviv University)

The fate of animals when their habitats are altered due to climate change is a common question many experts ponder as global temperatures continue to rise.

The fact that animals, including marine animals, have had to change habitats due to climate change is in itself nothing new. Previous observations have noted that narwhals, which live and hunt mainly in inlets and fjords in the Arctic, have been forced to move to the open ocean as their habitats shrink.

But the Mediterranean is very different from the Arctic, which is one of the fastest-changing ecosystems on the planet due to climate change.

“It should be remembered that the Mediterranean was warm in the first place, and now we are reaching the limit of the capacity of many species,” explained Professor Jonathan Belmaker, whose PhD student Shahar Chaikin led the study.

“Also, the temperature range in the Mediterranean is extremely cold in the northwest and very hot in the southeast. Both factors make the Mediterranean an ideal test case for the adaptation of species to global warming ”.

Already, the average temperature rises one degree every three decades or so. However, climate change has only accelerated this process.

The findings of this study have profound implications for the planet as climate change continues to worsen. This is true both for the Mediterranean and for the world in general.

Essentially, this predicts future changes that will occur in marine environments as temperatures continue to rise. Hopefully, knowing this now could give humanity time to prepare accordingly for these changes.

“Our research clearly shows that species respond to climate change by changing their depth distribution,” Chaikin said in a statement.

“And when we think ahead, decision makers will need to prepare in advance for species deepening. For example, future marine nature reserves will need to be defined so that they can also provide refuge for species that have migrated to greater depths. And, on the other hand, fishing in the future will mean catching the same fish at greater depths, which means sailing further out to sea and burning more fuel. “

Temperature changes are also evident on earth, with some experts projecting a rise in global temperatures of 2.9 degrees Celsius by the year 2100. This will undoubtedly affect many species, and at this rate it could one day include the humanity itself. But right now, it is the marine animals that are showing these effects.

“Even if species dig deep to escape warm waters and this rapid adaptation helps them, there is still a limit, and that limit is the seafloor,” added Belmaker. “We are already seeing deep-sea fish like cod, whose numbers are decreasing, probably because they had nowhere to go deeper.”

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