Detailed WP2 description

WP2. Impact of climate and anthropogenic changes on Mediterranean ecosystems and services they provide

Leaders: Wolfgang Cramer (IMBE), Alexander Ereskovsky (IMBE).

Work package description

Ecosystems and the services provided by them have been the very foundation of human socio-cultural development in the Mediterranean basin for many millennia – both from the land and from the sea. This is the case for fundamental provisioning services such as food, wood, drinking water, active ingredients of therapeutic interest, but also for cultural services such as the quality of certain landscapes for social development and reflection. Understanding human-environment relationships from the perspective of ecosystem services (as pioneered by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment) allows, for the first time, to quantitatively consider trade-offs between conservation and different forms of ecosystem use on a scientific basis. The Mediterranean provides a unique laboratory for this type of assessment, linking high-quality data from the distant and recent past with the present day, and allowing both the development of numeric models of human-environment interactions, and the exploration of scenarios for more sustainable development of human well-being. Such assessments are a prerequisite for environmental policy-making in the Mediterranean region.

The Mediterranean region is one of 34 global biodiversity hot spots. Because increased demography and climatic change, biodiversity is not just under threat, but it is also declining at an alarming rate. The concern is to understand how the coupled land-ocean ecosystem reacts to these changes, and how any change in its functioning relates to ecosystem services. How will species, communities and production vary in space and time in response to changing abiotic and biotic factors? There is a strong need to improve understanding of the relevant processes in order to predict changes in ecosystems, which obviously influence the cycles of major biogenic elements, biodiversity, fisheries, invasive species and ultimately have socio-economic impacts.

Due to the rapid and profound shifts in land use and climate, Mediterranean soils have experienced loss in soil organic matter, erosion, sealing due to urbanization, contamination by pollutants and salinization. Many ecosystem services are directly linked to soil quality and will therefore be affected: primary production, carbon sequestration, regulation of peak runoff, water availability, water quality and soil biodiversity.

Agro- and forest ecosystems deliver important services such as food and fibres, but the choice of agricultural management options also has significant impacts on the maintenance of biodiversity in the cultural landscape. For much of the Mediterranean, agriculture is either unsustainable with respect to its use of soil and water resources, or in rapid transition with largely unknown outcomes. Forestry is affected by the abandonment of the hinterlands in the agricultural landscape, although important changes can be expected as the market for biomass energy grows.

It is uncertain how projected climate change will cause further modifications within the marine ecosystem, breaking existing food chains and modifying ecological balances and ocean productivity. It is unclear if these impacts could be attenuated by the fact that Mediterranean biota is well adapted to high seasonal and inter-annual variability in hydrological conditions. On the other hand, human exploitation of fishery resources affects entire ecosystem functioning, requiring closer investigation of the interaction between the changing environmental, fisheries and the marine ecosystems. For example, jellyfish blooms have become a recurrent problem, affecting pelagic ecosystem functioning, fisheries and tourism.

Other actions

Actions Description Collaborations/ programs
Biodiversity management (1) compile all geo-referenced information about Med. ecosystems, along with existing protected areas and the major threats for them, (2) identify gaps in spatial patterns and ecosystem functioning - estimate biodiversity-related ecosystem services for key regions, as well as across the entire Mediterranean basin, (3) compare biogeographic and historical data (phylogeographic) to understand the evolution of biodiversity affected by global change IMBE, MIO, BIODIVMEX
Mediterranean soils: modelling and management (1) reconstruct the impacts of land use and past climate changes on soil properties during the last 50 and 2000 years, using isotopic signatures for the TWP1 observation areas, (2) improve soil models by coupling geochemical and C-N-ecosystem models and adapting them to the Mediterranean zone, (3) compare soil model to the agroecosystems model (TWP2), (4) integrate soil quality and services into decision making and adaptation strategies (WP3), by deriving indicators CEREGE, GSE, BIODIVMEX, SICMED, Equipex ASTER-CEREGE
Agriculture and forest modelling (1) estimate the basin-wide impacts of these changes by first adapting the global LPJmL model to the Mediterranean , (2) use it for contemporary and scenario studies to estimate ecosystem services (food, fibre, water), against different assumptions for ecosystem management, agriculture types IMBE, Coll. PIK (Potsdam, Germany)
Marine ecosystem functioning until exploited resources (1) study the responses of trophic webs in terms of community structure, functioning and adaptation with regard to climatic forcing and direct human impacts, (2) setup a long-term observation of diversity structure of the main planktonic communities in Gulf of Lion, (3) understand and forecast jellyfish blooms in coastal regions MIO, IMBE, MERMEX
Crau-Camargue two areas: (1) Crau plain (irrigation excesses), Camargue (paddy field drainage) (2) groundwater recharge will be studied, evapotranspiration, continent/ocean exchanges by combining isotopic tracing of water exchanges and modelling (SVAT-hydro- isotopes) CEREGE, Coll. EMMAH, SICMED, HYMEX
Marine environment management (1) effectiveness of Marine Protected Areas (MPA): effects of marine reserves on biodiversity, fisheries and ecosystem restoration (Harmelin et al 2008), (2) artificial reefs as tools for environment rehabilitation MIO, IMBE, MERMEX, Prog Recif Prado