Biologists from the UdG study factors that promote the expansion of invasive algae in the Mediterranean

Experts predict that the temperature of the Mediterranean Sea will increase by 1ºC over the next 30 years. At the UdG researchers analyse the impact of global warming and the expansion of invasive species on two of the main types of organisms living in calcareous algae and gorgonians.

One of the Mediterranean’s so-called ‘hot spots” is coralline, which forms in dark areas close to the surface and at deeper depths, is characterised by its high structural complexity. It is basically formed by calcareous algae and harbours many animal and plant species, of which a large number grow slowly or have low recruitment rates. That makes these organisms – and the entire system in general – very sensitive to perturbations.

Sea temperature increase
The data available to experts indicates that the Mediterranean Sea will experience a temperature increase of 1ºC over the next 30 years. The consequences will include the massive mortality of key organisms and tropicalisation, that is, the arrival of thermophilic species that experience optimal growth at high temperatures.

Among these species are various invasive macroalgae that may reach very large numbers in colonised zones and have harmful effects on the native ecosystem. In fact, biological invasions are considered to be the second most important cause of the extinction of species on a global scale, after physical habitat destruction.

As part of the research project “Effects of Global Warming and Alien Species Invasions on High Diverse Communities of NW Mediterranean Sea”, biologists of the Marine Benthic Algae group of the University of Girona (UdG), under the direction of Dr Conxi Rodríguez-Prieto, will study the response of calcareous algae and gorgonians to global warming and the expansion of invasive algae, as well as the synergetic effects of both factors.

Under the acronym CoralChange, this investigation will explore the physiological requirements of invasive species and their invasive potential in the Mediterranean, given a possible future scenario of global warming. The three-year project will have a budget of 45,000 euros, funded through a grant from the 7th Framework Programme of the European Union.

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