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Seawater warming at the northern reach for southern species: Gulf of Genoa, NW Mediterranean

  • Carlo Nike Bianchi (a1), Francesco Caroli (a1), Paolo Guidetti (a2) (a3) and Carla Morri (a1)

Global warming is facilitating the poleward range expansion of plant and animal species. In the Mediterranean Sea, the concurrent temperature increase and abundance of (sub)tropical non-indigenous species (NIS) is leading to the so-called ‘tropicalization’ of the Mediterranean Sea, which is dramatically evident in the south-eastern sectors of the basin. At the same time, the colder north-western sectors of the basin have been said to undergo a process of ‘meridionalization’, that is the establishment of warm-water native species (WWN) previously restricted to the southern sectors. The Gulf of Genoa (Ligurian Sea) is the north-western reach for southern species of whatever origin in the Mediterranean. Recent (up to 2015) observations of NIS and WWN by diving have been collated to update previous similar inventories. In addition, the relative occurrences of both groups of southern species have been monitored by snorkelling between 2009 and 2015 in shallow rocky reefs at Genoa, and compared with the trend in air and sea surface temperatures. A total of 20 southern species (11 NIS and 9 WWN) was found. Two WWN (the zebra seabream Diplodus cervinus and the parrotfish Sparisoma cretense) and three NIS (the SW Atlantic sponge Paraleucilla magna, the Red Sea polychaete Branchiomma luctuosum, and the amphi-American and amphi-Atlantic crab Percnon gibbesi) are new records for the Ligurian Sea, whereas juveniles of the Indo-Pacific bluespotted cornetfish Fistularia commersonii have been found for the first time. While temperature has kept on increasing for the whole period, with 2014 and 2015 being the warmest years since at least 1950, the number of WWN increased linearly, that of NIS increased exponentially, contradicting the idea of meridionalization and supporting that of tropicalization even in the northern sectors of the Mediterranean basin.

Corresponding author
Correspondence should be addressed to: C.N. Bianchi, DiSTAV (Department of Earth, Environment and Life Sciences), University of Genoa, Corso Europa 26, 16132 Genoa, Italy email:
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