Marine alien species as an aspect of global change

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Anna Occhipinti-Ambrogi *
Bella Galil
(*) Corresponding Author:
Anna Occhipinti-Ambrogi | anna.occhipinti@unipv.it

Abstract

The transport of organisms across oceans is an anthropogenic agent of global change that has profoundly affected the natural distribution of littoral biota and altered the makeup of biogeographic regions. The homogenization of marine biotas is a phenomenon especially affecting coastal regions and is spearheaded by a suite of opportunistic species at the expense of native species. Climate change may exacerbate the trend: sea surface temperatures, hydrodynamics, pH and carbonate cycles, already show marked fluctuations compared to the past. Alien invasive species are impacted by the change of marine climate in a variety of ways, which are we have just begun to notice, observe and interpret. A conceptual framework has yet to be conceived that links theories on biological introductions and invasions with the physical aspects of global change. Therefore predicting the scale of invasions or their impact on biodiversity is a daunting task. Integration of biological and environmental information systems, niche models, and climate projections would improve management of aquatic ecosystems under the dual threats of biotic invasions and climate change. The recorded spread of alien species and analysis of patterns of invasions may serve as the starting point for searching connections with climate change descriptors. The Mediterranean Sea is home to an exceptionally large number of alien species, resulting from its exceptional history and multiple vectors. For much of the twentieth century alien thermophilic species, which had entered the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal, have been confined to the Levantine Basin. In recent years climate driven hydrographic changes have coincided with a pronounced expansion of alien thermophilic biota to the central and western basins of the Mediterranean. We discuss some changes in emergent functions and services in Mediterranean ecosystems under the combined effect of invasive species and climate changes.

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