Global warming-enhanced stratification and mass mortality events in the Mediterranean

Coma, R.; Ribes, M.; Serrano, E.; Jiménez, E.; Salat, J.; Pascual, J.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Summer conditions in the Mediterranean Sea are characterized by high temperatures and low food availability. This leads to “summer dormancy” in many benthic suspension feeders due to energetic constraints. Analysis of the most recent 33-year temperature time series demonstrated enhanced stratification due to global warming, which produced a ≈40% lengthening of summer conditions. Many biological processes are expected to be affected by this trend, culminating in such events as mass mortality of invertebrates. Climatic anomalies concomitant with the occurrence of these events represent prolonged exposure to warmer summer conditions coupled with reduced food resources. Simulation of the effects of these conditions on a model organism demonstrated a biomass loss of >35%. Losses of this magnitude result in mortality similar to that noted in field observations during mass mortality events. These results indicate that temperature anomalies are the underlying cause of the events, with energetic constraints serving as the main triggering mechanism.
climatic anomalies, summer lengthening, energetic constraints, benthic suspension feeders, extreme events
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