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The Mediterranean is an indicator of environmental change, say EU researchers

The Mediterranean is a sensitive indicator of environmental change, EU marine researchers announced recently at the concluding workshop for the EU-funded Mediterranean targeted project (MTP). The scientists working on the project, which has run for six years, presented their r...
The Mediterranean is a sensitive indicator of environmental change, EU marine researchers announced recently at the concluding workshop for the EU-funded Mediterranean targeted project (MTP). The scientists working on the project, which has run for six years, presented their results in Perpignan, France, in late October, marking the end of its implementation phase.

'Amongst the many scientifically and socio-economically significant results is the conclusion that the Mediterranean provides an extremely sensitive indicator of the effects of climate change on oceans', says the European Commission. As the impact of such changes in marine productivity has frequently been demonstrated in the Mediterranean, the latest results indicate the Mediterranean could be a powerful predictor of the likely effects of future changes worldwide, they say.

Over 300 scientists from 13 different countries participated in the second phase of the Mediterranean targeted project (dubbed 'MATER'), which was made possible through 10.8 million euros from the European Union's research funds. This meant that researchers were able to spend over 1000 days at sea, collecting samples and analysing the physical, chemical and biological processes going on, as well as continuing their analysis in laboratories across Europe.

The researchers found compelling evidence for dramatic changes in deep water circulation in response to relatively small incremental changes in the temperature and salinity, which they believe indicate the Mediterranean Sea's strong sensitivity to environmental changes. At the MTP final workshop, they went on to demonstrate how climate change influences marine productivity. Essentially, they say, this means that the sensitivity of the Mediterranean Sea can be a kind of 'coal-miner's canary' for the world's oceans, helping to predict future changes.

They also reported findings on the influence of phosphorous concentration in sea water on phytoplankton growth, and the effects of the Chernobyl nuclear accident on the Mediterranean. Anthropogenic phosphorous levels are also on the increase they said.

The project is also being hailed as a success by the European Commission because it involved increasing numbers of young scientists and served as an important model for similar studies in other regional seas such as the South China Sea.

Source: European Commission, Research Directorate-General

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