Marine Biodiversity of the Mediterranean Sea: Situation, Problems and Prospects for Future Research
Marine Pollution Bulletin
Mediterranean marine biodiversity has received only a fraction of the attention accorded to its terrestrial counterpart, despite the great cultural and economic importance that the sea has been having for the Mediterranean countries. A rough estimate of more than 8500 species of macroscopic marine organisms should live in the Mediterranean Sea, corresponding to somewhat between 4% and 18% of the world marine species. This is a conspicuous figure if one considers that the Mediterranean Sea is only 0.82% in surface area and 0.32% in volume as compared to the world ocean. The high biodiversity of the Mediterranean Sea may be explained by historical (its tradition of study dates older than for almost any other sea), paleogeographic (its tormented geological history through the last 5 my has been determining the occurrence of distinct biogeographic categories), and ecological (its variety of climatic and hydrologic situations within a single basin has probably no equals in the world) reasons. Present-day Mediterranean biodiversity is undergoing rapid alteration under the combined pressure of climate change and human impact, but protection measures, either for species or ecosystems, are still scarce. To understand the role and patterns of Mediterranean marine biodiversity, marine ecological research should: first, re-value those scientific areas currently unfashionable with funding agencies (systematics, biogeography and taxonomy); second, start monitoring biodiversity with a long-term approach at a whole Mediterranean scale, possibly through an internationally co-ordinated network of marine protected areas.