SUSTAINABILITY OF MARINE COASTAL ECOSYSTEMS IN THE CONTEXT OF GLOBAL CHANGE IN THE MEDITERRANEAN SEA: MODELING AND SIMULATIONS
Damià Gomila, Tomás Sintes
Partners: IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB), IFISC (CSIC-UIB)
The SuMaEco project is an interdisciplinary effort to try to understand the effects of global change on coastal marine ecosystems in the Mediterranean Sea by combining data, models and simulations.
With global change we understand all the impacts to the biosphere due to human activity, such as global warming, ocean acidification, the introduction of species, or pollution. The Mediterranean Sea is under a very strong anthropogenic pressure and it is warming very fast. It is a particularly vulnerable sea due to its semi-enclosed nature. Warming is threatening native species with a thermal niche similar to current temperature regimes, in particular benthic photosynthetic species, since they can not migrate northward in search of cooler waters following isotherms. On the other hand, Mediterranean warming favors the proliferation of thermophile species, which include exotic species. Similarly, the entry of pathogens is threatening endemic species such as, for example, Pinna nobilis. Global change conditions determine the structure, functioning and key services provided by the ecosystems of the Mediterranean Sea.
The evidence that allows identification of all these risks comes from the systematic monitoring over decades and observations at different localities of biological, physical and chemical parameters combined with experimental work under controlled conditions. These tasks are fundamental for the diagnosis, understanding and future projections of the state of the ecosystems. But this is not enough. Effects at the landscape level (at kilometer scale) can not be inferred just from local observations (up to one meter); it is needed to consider the interactions between individuals at scales of several meters and the non-linearities of the population dynamics which turn ecosystems into complex systems exhibiting a collective behavior. The understanding of these emergent phenomena goes beyond the scope of biology and requires research on the frontier between ecology and physics. In this project, concepts, methods and techniques of Statistical and Non-linear Physics, Computational Physics and Data Analysis, together with the experimental and field observations, will contribute to the understanding of the biological mechanisms that shape ecosystems, to improve the projections of ecosystem structure and function under scenarios of global change, to identify possible tipping points, and to guide experimental measures to validate theoretical hypotheses. The ability of the research team to face this challenge is supported by the expertise of its members in previous projects and the demonstrated success of past interdisciplinary collaborations. Likewise, it is expected that the results of the project provide knowledge to establish environmental policies related to the protection of coastal marine ecosystems.
The general objectives of SuMaEco are: 1) to identify the competitive and facilitative mechanisms acting in the ecosystems of macrophytes, 2) to evaluate the resistance of coastal marine ecosystems to global change, 3) to examine the changes in ecosystem functions triggered by the global change from the level of individuals to the landscape level; and 4) investigate the spread of pathogens in the Mediterranean subjected to global change using Pinna nobilis as a case study.
This project has a duration of 3 years starting on January 1, 2019.