Marine heatwaves drive recurrent mass mortalities in the Mediterranean Sea

Joaquim Garrabou, Daniel Gómez-Gras, Alba Medrano, Carlo Cerrano, Massimo Ponti, Robert Schlegel, Nathaniel Bensoussan, Eva Turicchia, Maria Sini, Vasilis Gerovasileiou, Nuria Teixido, Alice Mirasole, Laura Tamburello, Emma Cebrian, Gil Rilov, Jean-Baptiste Ledoux, Jamila Ben Souissi, Faten Khamassi, Raouia Ghanem, Mouloud BenabdiSamir Grimes, Oscar Ocaña, Hocein Bazairi, Bernat Hereu, Cristina Linares, Diego Kurt Kersting, Graciel la Rovira, Júlia Ortega, David Casals, Marta Pagès-Escolà, Núria Margarit, Pol Capdevila, Jana Verdura, Alfonso Ramos, Andres Izquierdo, Carmen Barbera, Esther Rubio-Portillo, Irene Anton, Paula López-Sendino, David Díaz, Maite Vazquez-Luis, Carlos M. Duarte, Núria Marbà, Eneko Aspillaga, Free Espinosa, Daniele Grech, Ivan Guala, Ernesto Azzurro, Simone Farina, Maria Cristina Gambi, Giovanni Chimienti, Monica Montefalcone, Annalisa Azzola, Torcuato Pulido Mantas, Simonetta Fraschetti, Giulia Ceccherelli, Silvija Kipson, Tatjana Bakran-Petricioli, Donat Petricioli, Carlos Jimenez, Stelios Katsanevakis, Inci Tuney Kizilkaya, Zafer Kizilkaya, Stephane Sartoretto, Rouanet Elodie, Sandrine Ruitton, S. Comeau, Jean-Pierre Gattuso, Jean-Georges Harmelin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

123 Scopus citations


Climate change is causing an increase in the frequency and intensity of marine heatwaves (MHWs) and mass mortality events (MMEs) of marine organisms are one of their main ecological impacts. Here, we show that during the 2015–2019 period, the Mediterranean Sea has experienced exceptional thermal conditions resulting in the onset of five consecutive years of widespread MMEs across the basin. These MMEs affected thousands of kilometers of coastline from the surface to 45 m, across a range of marine habitats and taxa (50 taxa across 8 phyla). Significant relationships were found between the incidence of MMEs and the heat exposure associated with MHWs observed both at the surface and across depths. Our findings reveal that the Mediterranean Sea is experiencing an acceleration of the ecological impacts of MHWs which poses an unprecedented threat to its ecosystems' health and functioning. Overall, we show that increasing the resolution of empirical observation is critical to enhancing our ability to more effectively understand and manage the consequences of climate change.
Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalGlobal Change Biology
StatePublished - Jul 18 2022

Bibliographical note

KAUST Repository Item: Exported on 2022-09-14
Acknowledgements: Joaquim Garrabou thanks the rangers of the Réserve Naturelle de Scandola for their field support. Gil Rilov thanks the Rilov lab monitoring team. Nuria Teixido and Maria Cristina Gambi thank Pietro Sorvino (ANS-Diving, Ischia) for field support and field information. Massimo Ponti thanks Mario Munaretto for the timely photo documentation of the death of the gorgonians at Tavolara Island. Diego K. Kersting thanks the managers and staff of the Columbretes Islands Marine Reserve for their support. Daniele Grech thanks Dr. Alessandro Diotallevi and Sandro and Daniele Cerri (Sestante Diving, Castiglione della Pescaia) for sharing field information and support. This paper was supported by Euromarine. Joaquim Garrabou acknowledges the funding by the “Severo Ochoa Centre of Excellence” (CEX2019-000928-S), the MCIU/AEI/FEDER [HEATMED; RTI2018-095346-B-I00], Interreg-Med Programme MPA-Engage (1MED15_3.2_M2_337), the European Union Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (Futuremares SEP-210597628). Nuria Teixido acknowledges the French National Research Agency (4Oceans-MOPGA grant, ANR-17-MPGA-0001) and internal funds from the Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn. Gil Rilov was supported by the Israel Ministry of Environmental Protection. Hocein Bazairi, Free Spinosa, and Vasilis Gerovasileiou acknowledge the funding by the MAVA Fondation (MedKeyHabitats I Project) and the European Commission (Ecap-MED II Project; projects implemented by UNEP/MAP-RAC/SPA). Alfonso Ramos was supported the CIESM “Tropical Signals,” Stelios Katsanevakis and Maria Sini were supported by the Project “Coastal Environment Observatory and Risk Management in Island Regions AEGIS+” (MIS 5047038), implemented within the Operational Programme “Competitiveness, Entrepreneurship and Innovation” (NSRF 2014–2020), co-financed by the Hellenic Government (Ministry of Development and Investments) and the European Union (European Regional Development Fund, Cohesion Fund), Stelios Katsanevakis, Maria Sini and Vasilis Gerovasileiou acknowledge the support of the MARISCA Project, co-funded by 85% by the EEA GRANTS, 2009–2014, and 15% by the Public Investments Programme (PIP) of the Hellenic Republic. Ivan Guala and Daniele Grech thanks thank the support of the project “Pinna nobilis—ricerca per la sopravvivenza: un'iniziativa di Citizen Science per tracciare la mortalità di massa di Pinna nobilis in Sardegna” project and the L/7 grant (CUP 87G17000070002) funded by the Regione Autonoma Sardegna. Jean-Baptiste Ledoux was funded by an assistant researcher contract framework of the RD Unit—UID/Multi/04423/2019—Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research—financed by the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) through COMPETE2020—Operational Program for Competitiveness and Internationalization (POCI) and national funds through FCT/MCTES (PIDDAC). This research was supported by the Strategic Funding UIDB/04423/2020 and UIDP/04423/2020 through national funds provided by the FCT—Foundation for Science and Technology and European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), in the framework of the program PT2020. Bernat Hereu and Cristina Linares acknowledge the support of the long-term monitoring programme of the catalan Natural Parks, funded by the Departament de Territori i Sostenibilitat of the Generalitat de Catalunya. Cristina Linares acknowledges the support of the ICREA Academia programme. David Díaz acknowledges the support the research grant CTM2016-77027-R of the Programa Estatal de Investigación, Desarrollo e Innovación Orientada a los Retos de la Sociedad and Program of Marines Strategies of Spain funded by MITERD. Jamila Ben Soussi was partially funded by the Fondation Albert 2 Monaco (MIMOSA Project) and the Tropical Signals Program of CIESM. Giovanni Chimienti was supported by the Italian Ministry of Education, University and Research (PON 2014–2020, AIM 1807508–1, Linea 1), by the Ente Parco Nazionale del Gargano (Research agreement with CoNISMa N. 21/2018), and by the National Geographic Society (Grant EC-176R-18). Nathaniel Bensoussan acknowledges financial support from the European Commission through the programme “Caroline Herschell” in the context of the action “Developing Downstream applications and services on BIO-PHYsical characterization of the seascape for COASTal management” (BIOPHYCOAST). Monica Montefalcone and Annalissa Azzola collected some of their data on MMEs in the frame of the project “Mare Caldo” funded by Greenpeace Italy. Núria Marbà acknowledges financial support from the Spanish Ministries of Economy and Competitiveness (CTM2012-32603, CGL2015-71809-P) and Ministerio de Ciencia, Innovación y Universidades (RTI2018-095441-B-C21). Diego K. Kersting acknowledges support by the postdoctoral fellowship programme Beatriu de Pinós funded by the Secretary of Universities and Research (Government of Catalonia) and the Horizon 2020 programme of research and innovation of the European Union under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant agreement No 801370.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • General Environmental Science
  • Environmental Chemistry


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  • Datasets used on the analysis of Mediterranean Mass mortality events during the 2015-2019 period

    Garrabou, J. (Creator), Gómez-Gras, D. (Creator), Medrano, A. (Creator), Cerrano, C. (Creator), Ponti, M. (Creator), Schlegel, R. (Creator), Bensoussan, N. (Creator), Turicchia, E. (Creator), Sini, M. (Creator), Gerovasileiou, V. (Creator), Teixido, N. (Creator), Mirasole, A. (Creator), Tamburello, L. (Creator), Cebrian, E. (Creator), Rilov, G. (Creator), Ledoux, J. (Creator), Souissi, J. B. (Creator), Khamassi, F. (Creator), Ghanem, R. (Creator), Benabdi, M. (Creator), Grimes, S. (Creator), Ocaña, O. (Creator), Bazairi, H. (Creator), Hereu, B. (Creator), Linares, C. (Creator), Kersting, D. K. (Creator), la Rovira, G. (Creator), Ortega, J. (Creator), Casals, D. (Creator), Pagès-Escolà, M. (Creator), Margarit, N. (Creator), Capdevila, P. (Creator), Verdura, J. (Creator), Ramos, A. (Creator), Izquierdo, A. (Creator), Barbera, C. (Creator), Rubio-Portillo, E. (Creator), Anton, I. (Creator), López-Sendino, P. (Creator), Díaz, D. (Creator), Vazquez-Luis, M. (Creator), Duarte, C. (Creator), Marbà, N. (Creator), Aspillaga, E. (Creator), Espinosa, F. (Creator), Grech, D. (Creator), Guala, I. (Creator), Azzurro, E. (Creator), Farina, S. (Creator), Cristina Gambi, M. (Creator), Chimienti, G. (Creator), Montefalcone, M. (Creator), Azzola, A. (Creator), Mantas, T. P. (Creator), Fraschetti, S. (Creator), Ceccherelli, G. (Creator), Kipson, S. (Creator), Bakran-Petricioli, T. (Creator), Petricioli, D. (Creator), Jimenez, C. (Creator), Katsanevakis, S. (Creator), Kizilkaya, I. T. (Creator), Kizilkaya, Z. (Creator), Sartoretto, S. (Creator), Elodie, R. (Creator), Ruitton, S. (Creator), Comeau, S. (Creator), Gattuso, J. (Creator) & Harmelin, J. (Creator), Zenodo, May 28 2022


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