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In recent years the issue of ocean acidification has moved rapidly up the political, economic and social agendas and is especially pertinent when combined with other pressures upon the marine environment, such as increased seawater warming and oxygen loss, overfishing and proliferation of invasive species. The Mediterranean Sea is of special interest to ocean acidification research as it is a complex, semi-enclosed body of water with high environmental variability and natural CO2 vents that may give scientists a window into a what a high CO2 ocean may look like in the future.

To discuss and share knowledge about ocean acidification and climate change impacts on this dynamic marine environment, over 60 scientists from 12 countries, mainly from the Mediterranean region, met in Rome on 4th and 5th March 2012 for the first Annual Science Meeting of the EU-funded Mediterranean Sea Acidification in a Changing Climate (MedSeA) project.

Participants to the 1st Annual Meeting

Scientists within the MedSeA project have been examining the concentration of human-produced carbon, taken from Mediterranean field measurements, which is high and unusually penetrating deeper waters. Typically ocean acidification (pH decrease) affects the sea surface but this work has identified evidence of pH decrease throughout the water column, with the effect being more prominent in the NW Mediterranean Sea. Due to the complexity and high variability of the Mediterranean basin, ocean acidification will have different regional impacts, such as in regions where projections of (winter and summer) sea surface temperature are likely to increase up to 2oC by the year 2050, if rates of anthropogenic CO2 emissions continue at today’s rate.

In addition to investigating the changing chemical processes within the Mediterranean Sea, MedSeA scientists are studying the response of a wide range of organisms to ocean acidification, from free drifting plankton to bottom-dwelling organisms. Some organisms, such as corals, seagrass and shellfish, are habitat builders so their health is critical in creating ecosystems for other organisms that may also have cultural and commercial value for the human population around the Mediterranean Sea.  Recent findings from CO2 vents, highlight the sensitivity of some of these organisms and ecosystems to environmental change, suggesting that under the projected ocean acidification and global warming conditions, fragile Mediterranean ecosystems may experience loss of biodiversity (Hall-spencer et al. 2008, Rodolfo Metalpa 2011); a shift from a diverse coastal community to algae/seagrass dominated ecosystems.  

Ocean acidification is the term used to describe the ongoing decrease in ocean pH caused by human CO2 emissions, such as the burning of fossil fuels and cement production. This is the first concerted effort to study the impact of acidification and climate change on the Mediterranean ecosystems, which is fundamental to the social and economic conditions of the many millions of people living along its coastlines and visiting the region each year.



  The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n° 265103
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