Mediterranean seagrass (Posidonia oceanica) loss between 1842 and 2009

Núria Marbà*, Elena Díaz-Almela, Carlos M. Duarte

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

155 Scopus citations


We compiled published data in peer-review articles and grey literature reports, which we appended with our own data, to assess the changes in areal extent, cover and shoot density that P. oceanica meadows have experienced between years 1842 and 2009 in the Mediterranean basin. Our results demonstrate an overall tendency towards decline of the areal extent, cover and shoot density of P. oceanica meadows during the last 50. years, the period with the largest availability of records. Available estimates indicated that between 13% and 50% of seagrass areal extent of P. oceanica in the Mediterranean basin appear to be lost, and that the remaining meadows of the Mediterranean may have thinned shoot density by 50% for the last 20. years and have became more fragmented. Considering the changes quantified in P. oceanica areal extent, cover and density, about 6.9% of the potential P. oceanica vegetation would have been lost annually over the last 50. years. The loss of P. oceanica meadows in the Mediterranean may have lead to a substantial (between 11% and 52%) reduction of the capacity of this key coastal ecosystem to sequester carbon in the last 50. years, hence reducing the carbon sink capacity of the entire Mediterranean Sea. The major causes of P. oceanica loss were widespread local disturbances, but recently, global disturbances, such as climate change and the spread of invasive exotic species, were also seriously threatening Posidonia meadows in the Mediterranean. These findings urgently call for implementation of management measures aiming at mitigating coastal deterioration by combining local and global actions.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)183-190
Number of pages8
JournalBiological Conservation
StatePublished - Aug 2014
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This study was funded by the projects SESAME (EU, Project no: 036949, Integrated Project of the Thematic Priority: 6.3 Global Change and Ecosystems), OPERA (EU, Project no: 308393, Collaborative Project of Theme ENV.2012.6.2-1), EstresX (Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitivness, Ref. CTM2012-32603) and GAEM (Government of the Balearic Islands). We thank Daniel Cervantes for help on data mining and Johnna Holding for revising the English language of the manuscript. A Gledden Visiting Senior Fellowship from the Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Western Australia, partially supported NM.


  • Areal meadow extent
  • Biological invasions
  • Eutrophication
  • Physical impacts
  • Seagrass cover
  • Shoot density
  • Vegetation gain
  • Vegetation loss

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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