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Experts: Climate Change Puts Sea at Risk

The Associated Press

Breaking Earth News

Climate change is affecting Europe faster than the rest of the world and rising temperatures could transform the Mediterranean into a salty and stagnant sea, Italian experts said Wednesday. Warmer waters and increased salinity could doom many of the sea's plant and animal species and ravage the fishing industry. Scientists still don't know why the region is more sensitive to climate change, but in the next decades, temperature increases hitting Europe during the summer months could be 40 percent to 50 percent higher than elsewhere. The change is also being felt at sea level, with a surface temperature increase of 1 degree every decade. "The Mediterranean is becoming warmer and saltier" due to increased evaporation. This could disrupt the flow at the Strait of Gibraltar, a key gateway to the Mediterranean.

Photo Below: Italian President Giorgio Napolitano attends the opening ceremony of the National Conference on Climate Change, in the FAO headquarters in Rome, Wednesday Sept. 12, 2007. Italian experts said global warming is proceeding faster in Europe than in the rest of the world and that the Mediterranean could become a stagnant sea. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino)

The higher salt concentration in the Mediterranean would cause water to flow out into the Atlantic Ocean, as opposed to Atlantic water coming into the Mediterranean, which serves as the sea's lifeline. Even more worrying, a study conducted by Italy's marine research institute indicates the temperature increases are creeping into the cold depths of the Mediterranean. Measurements conducted last winter off Italy's western coast at a depth of up to 300 feet showed temperatures were about 3.6 degrees above average. Temperature differences between the sea's layers create the currents that allow the Mediterranean's waters to mix and bring up fresh nutrients to feed the algae that form the basic diet of most fish species. These temperature rises could wipe out "up to 50 percent of the species," the study said. The decline in the algae population measured last winter also reduced by 30 percent the sea's ability to absorb carbon dioxide, one of the gases blamed by scientists for heating the atmosphere like a greenhouse.
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