Investigation of spatiotemporal patterns in mean temperature and mean trophic level of MEDITS survey catches in the Mediterranean Sea

mean temperature of the catch trophic level bottom temperature trends Mediterranean fishing pressure sea warming climate change


Mean temperature (MTC) and mean trophic level (MTL) spatiotemporal patterns of MEDITS survey catches were examined in 13 geographic statistical areas (GSAs) of the Mediterranean between 1994 and 2016. The study aimed to detect changes in the demersal community structure related to anthropogenic impacts. A generalized additive modelling approach was used to examine the effects of year and GSA on the MTC and MTL indexes and on bottom temperature by haul. For the MTC index, the year was significant only in 4 GSAs, while for MTL it was significant in 5. Higher MTC values were observed in central and eastern areas. Bottom temperature increased after 2010, and also from west to east and from north to south. Our results indicate that the recently observed increase in bottom sea temperature has not resulted in an immediate response by demersal marine communities, but areas with higher warming rates or shallow depths were found to be more susceptible to sea warming. For MTL, decreasing trends were observed in only 2 GSAs, while the temporal trends observed in 5 GSAs may have reflected changes in fishing activity patterns. However, higher MTL values were observed in GSAs with generally higher exploitation rates, indicating that factors other than fishing play an important structuring role in marine communities. The present results indicate differences among Mediterranean subareas in regard to changes in the community structure attributed to environmental conditions and exploitation patterns and have implications for the ecology and dynamics of the stocks.