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Global Ocean Environment News from Cyprus underwater sciences

Invasive Alien Species in the East Mediterranean Coast and Global Warming

Extensive use of fossil fuels and deforestation has contributed substantially towards global warming and climate change. The climate change caused by global warming is significantly higher than pre- industrial period. The sea level has been increasing at a rate of 2mm per year since 1990. Floods and droughts have become more common. The number of invasive aquatic species is increasing year after year. Alien specimen that arrives in a new habitat may die, survive with little environmental impact or harm the naturally existing species in many ways.  A recent study shows that east Mediterranean coast has been invaded by hundreds of alien species recently.

Pollution, over exploitation of resources, destruction of habitats of native species and climate change contribute towards biodiversity loss. However, the main threat is from marine invasive species. Marine habitats populated by various species of plants, animals and microorganisms were separated by natural barriers. Shipping, air travel and other means of transport have overcome these barriers, making alien species moving into new habitats.

Marine scientist Stefan Kalogirou at the University of Gothenburg stated that it is virtually impossible to eradicate these alien species in the east Mediterranean coast. Reports show that these species come from various coastal environments and has caused several problems to indigenous species and ecosystem. A research study made on the structure and function of fish in the sea grass meadows and sandy bottoms provide some significant insight into the invasion of alien species. The research also shows how they create an impact in the food chain of these species.

Pufferfish is one among the many alien species that have been discovered recently. It is highly poisonous. The toxin of the pufferfish can cause muscle paralysis that can contribute to respiratory arrest. In some cases, it can cause death. Studies made on Mediterranean coastal regions reveal that the pufferfish has become dominant and can cause significant impact on the ecology. As they have established themselves well in the Mediterranean region, it is very difficult or rather impossible to get rid of them.

The invasion of marine allochthonous species in the Mediterranean is unalterable. Invasive alien species like the red algae and the green algae have colonized large sheathes of the basin. Invasive fish species like marine gastropod mollusk leachi and scyphozoan jellyfish cause real trouble to fishermen, power station operators in the east Mediterranean coast. Alien invertebrates also arrive in the Mediterranean. The Suez Canal has been the major route for the invasion of these species.  These species pose a threat to the biodiversity of the marine ecosystem in this region. Water warming and development of trade are the main contributing factors for the steady increase of these alien species.

The alien species that have now settled in east Mediterranean region represent a danger for human health and local economy. The jellyfish that entered the Mediterranean in 1970s via Suez Canal causes painful burns to people who swim here.  They have invaded some beaches in groups causing a lot of havoc.

summary report written and review by Doctor Stavros Kaniklides ocean scientist 

Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) its A Must In Cyprus Coastline

Marine protected areas are those where human activities are restricted to protect the natural environment, water and the marine ecosystem. Cyprus Coastline is one of the most important regions that is included on the marine protected areas list. 

Cyprus Coastline extends to approximately 772km. Located in the middle of Levantine basin, Cyprus is characterized by its level of endemism. The temperature regime and salinity of surface water is higher than what it is in the remaining coastlines along the Mediterranean. This is one reason why it has a relatively high diversity of species. The warm waters of this region and coastal zone support turtle nesting on beaches. The water in this area is clear due to its oligotrophic nature and photosynthesis that happens deep below.

Factors affecting the Marine Biodiversity of Cyprus

Cyprus has a range of features to support higher level of marine biodiversity. However, many factors pose a threat to it.

  • Fishing and Overfishing
    Overfishing with trawlers in shallow waters contribute towards the environmental degradation and affects the biodiversity of Cyprus Sea. The rapid growth in the demand for fish and fish products increase the price of fish that apparently attracts many fishery investments. If over fishing continues, more species of fish in Cyprus will be exploited or depleted. This is one of the major reasons why marine protected areas are a must in Cyprus Coastline.
  • Tourism
    Tourism is the major sector fueling the economy of Cyprus. However, tourism development of this coastal zone has created a great impact on the marine habitat and species that depend on the zone like ghost crabs, turtles and monk seals.
  • Pollution
    Pollution is one of the major factors affecting the marine biodiversity of Cyprus. Chemicals and enrichment of sea waters with organic matter lead to eutrophication. Eutrophication resulting from nutrients and use of fertilizers encourage the growth of phytoplankton, toxic algae and blooms of nuisance. This depletes the level of oxygen in water and makes alterations in the composition of various species.
  • Migration of Lessepsian
    Lessepsian migration is the continuous migration of marine species from the Suez Canal to the Mediterranean Sea. These invasive species have been creating serious impact on the marine ecosystem not only in Cyprus, but also in the complete Mediterranean region.

Cyprus coastline is diverse. From ragged rocky shorelines to steep inaccessible cliffs and gentle sandy beaches, the coastline has a variety of characteristics. The diverse nature of the coastline along with various factors like wave exposure and geology has resulted in the existence of numerous habitats that support various plant and animal species. The sandy beaches support ghost crab population, while the rocky shores are the habitats of the endangered east Mediterranean Cowry. Top shells of various species, limpets and winkles can be found here. Various species of seaweeds are found in pools and crevices in the rocky shores.  About ten kilometers of Cyprus coastline were declared as a reserve in the year 1989 for conserving turtles. Declaring the entire coastline as marine protected areas can help preserve marine biodiversity in this region. 

summary report written and review by Doctor Stavros Kaniklides ocean scientist 

Sea Level Rise in the East Mediterranean Coast

Sea level in the east Mediterranean Coast has been observed since 1920. The main purpose of this study is to determine whether the sea level has increased or not. A rise in sea level indicates the need for coastline protection and a need to take action against possible intrusion of seawater into freshwater regions. The study shows that the sea level has increased significantly in the east Mediterranean coast, as compared to the sea level that prevailed in 1970s. In addition to global warming, changes in precipitation pattern and frequent occurrence of severe weather events, sea level rise is also considered to be the most devastating consequences of global warming and climate change.

Reasons for Sea Level Rise in the East Mediterranean Coast

Thermal expansion as an outcome of global warming is the main reason for increase in the sea level in the eastern Mediterranean. Melting glaciers is yet another significant reason for increase in the sea level.  Human activities like increased use of fossil fuel and cutting down trees in large numbers contribute to ocean warming and sea level changes.

Many scientists agree that global warming pose a serious threat to the environment. From the melting of the ice cap to the loss of coral reefs, the effects of global warming are clear. Thermal expansion has already increased sea levels between 4 and 8 inches.


Due to varied human pressures, many coastal areas are already facing severe environmental problems like pollution, coastal erosion and degradation of dunes. Sea level rise will increase the stress on these regions by causing flooding, eroding sandy beaches and destructing coastal wetlands.  They will also pose threats to bridges, docks, jetties, coastal roads and waterfront properties. Intrusion of saltwater could contaminate groundwater, causing hazardous wastes and landfills.

Land loss

Sea level rise in the east Mediterranean coast could lead to the loss of around 50% of the sandy shore by 2050. If the sea level continues to increase, it will eat up to 70% of the area by 2100. These estimates would have serious social and economic consequences for the tourism sectors in the eastern Mediterranean regions, where beach is the main part of the resource.

Sea level rise can cause devastating effect like flooding. Coastal cities in the Mediterranean region are under direct risk of flooding. Tourist resorts, ports, agricultural land and coastal wetland are also under risk. However, some parts of the ecosystem of the wetlands in this region will not be destroyed, as they adapt to sea level rise. The richness of the species living in this region is more likely to reduce due to unfavorable new conditions.

Sea level rise can cause alterations in the shoreline that include the possibility of losing the natural protective barriers. This again could increase the risk of flooding in coastal cities. When the sea level increases, strong and powerful storm will surge and cause serious threat to the coastal areas. Studies show that coastal zones affected by storm surges would be substantially more, if the sea level continues to rise at this rate.

summary report written and review by PhD, Dr. Stavros Kaniklides Marine scientists  

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