Mediterranean Sea

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Mediterranean Sea
Mediterranee 02 EN.jpg
Map of the Mediterranean Sea
Coordinates 35°N18°E / 35°N 18°E / 35; 18 Coordinates: 35°N18°E / 35°N 18°E / 35; 18
Type Sea
Primary inflows Atlantic Ocean, Sea of Marmara, Nile, Ebro, Rhône, Chelif, Po
Basin  countries
Surface area2,500,000 km2 (970,000 sq mi)
Average depth1,500 m (4,900 ft)
Max. depth5,267 m (17,280 ft)
Water volume3,750,000 km3 (900,000 cu mi)
Residence time 80–100 years [1]
Islands 3300+
Settlements Alexandria, Algiers, Athens, Barcelona, Beirut, Carthage, Dubrovnik, Istanbul, İzmir, Rome, Split, Tangier, Tel Aviv, Tripoli, Tunis (full list)

The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa and on the east by the Levant. Although the sea is sometimes considered a part of the Atlantic Ocean, it is usually identified[ by whom? ] as a separate body of water. Geological evidence indicates that around 5.9 million years ago, the Mediterranean was cut off from the Atlantic and was partly or completely desiccated over a period of some 600,000 years (the Messinian salinity crisis) before being refilled by the Zanclean flood about 5.3 million years ago.

Atlantic Ocean Ocean between Europe, Africa and the Americas

The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest of the world's oceans, with an area of about 106,460,000 square kilometers. It covers approximately 20 percent of the Earth's surface and about 29 percent of its water surface area. It separates the "Old World" from the "New World".

Mediterranean Basin Region of lands around the Mediterranean Sea that have a Mediterranean climate

In biogeography, the Mediterranean Basin is the region of lands around the Mediterranean Sea that have a Mediterranean climate, with mild, rainy winters and hot, dry summers, which supports characteristic Mediterranean forests, woodlands, and scrub vegetation.

Southern Europe Geographic region in Europe

Southern Europe is the southern region of the European continent. Most definitions of Southern Europe, also known as Mediterranean Europe, include Italy, Malta, Corsica, Greece, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Slovenia, Spain, East Thrace of European Turkey, Cyprus and Northern Cyprus. Portugal, Andorra, Vatican City, San Marino, Serbia, Kosovo and North Macedonia are also often included despite not having a coast in the Mediterranean. Some definitions may also include mainland Southern France and Monaco, which are otherwise considered parts of Western Europe, and Bulgaria, which is otherwise considered part of Southeast Europe or Eastern Europe.

Contents

It covers an area of about 2.5 million km2 [2] (965,000 sq mi), representing 0.7% of the global ocean surface, but its connection to the Atlantic via the Strait of Gibraltar—the narrow strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Spain in Europe from Morocco in Africa—is only 14 km (9 mi) wide. In oceanography, it is sometimes called the Eurafrican Mediterranean Sea or the European Mediterranean Sea to distinguish it from mediterranean seas elsewhere. [3] [4]

Strait of Gibraltar strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea

The Strait of Gibraltar is a narrow strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Gibraltar and Peninsular Spain in Europe from Morocco and Ceuta (Spain) in Africa.

Spain Kingdom in Southwest Europe

Spain, officially the Kingdom of Spain, is a country mostly located in Europe. Its continental European territory is situated on the Iberian Peninsula. Its territory also includes two archipelagoes: the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, and the Balearic Islands in the Mediterranean Sea. The African enclaves of Ceuta, Melilla, and Peñón de Vélez de la Gomera make Spain the only European country to have a physical border with an African country (Morocco). Several small islands in the Alboran Sea are also part of Spanish territory. The country's mainland is bordered to the south and east by the Mediterranean Sea except for a small land boundary with Gibraltar; to the north and northeast by France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay; and to the west and northwest by Portugal and the Atlantic Ocean.

Europe Continent in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere

Europe (Europa) is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Asia to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.

The Mediterranean Sea has an average depth of 1,500 m (4,900 ft) and the deepest recorded point is 5,267 m (17,280 ft) in the Calypso Deep in the Ionian Sea. It lies between latitudes 30° and 46° N and longitudes 6° W and 36° E. Its west-east length, from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Gulf of Iskenderun, on the southwestern coast of Turkey, is about 4,000 km (2,500 miles).

Calypso Deep

Calypso Deep, located in the Hellenic Trench, Ionian Sea south-west of Pylos, Greece, is the deepest part of the Mediterranean Sea, with a maximum depth of 5,267 m (17,280 ft), at 36°34′N21°8′E.

Ionian Sea Part of the Mediterranean Sea south of the Adriatic Sea

The Ionian Sea is an elongated bay of the Mediterranean Sea. It is connected to the Adriatic Sea to the north, and is bounded by Southern Italy, including Calabria, Sicily, and the Salento peninsula to the west, southern Albania to the north, and the west coast of Greece, including the peninsula of The Peleponnese.

30th parallel north circle of latitude

The 30th parallel north is a circle of latitude that is 30 degrees north of the Earth's equatorial plane. It stands one-third of the way between the equator and the North Pole and crosses Africa, Asia, the Pacific Ocean, North America and the Atlantic Ocean.

The sea was an important route for merchants and travellers of ancient times, facilitating trade and cultural exchange between peoples of the region. The history of the Mediterranean region is crucial to understanding the origins and development of many modern societies.

Merchant businessperson who trades in commodities that were produced by others

A merchant is a person who trades in commodities produced by other people. Historically, a merchant is anyone who is involved in business or trade. Merchants have operated for as long as industry, commerce, and trade have existed. In 16th-century Europe, two different terms for merchants emerged: meerseniers referred to local traders and koopman (Dutch: koopman referred to merchants who operated on a global stage, importing and exporting goods over vast distances and offering added-value services such as credit and finance.

History of the Mediterranean region aspect of history

The Mediterranean Sea was the central superhighway of transport, trade and cultural exchange between diverse peoples encompassing three continents: Western Asia, North Africa, and Southern Europe. The history of the cultures and people of the Mediterranean Basin is important for understanding the origin and development of the Mesopotamian, Egyptian, Canaanite, Phoenician, Hebrew, Carthaginian, Greek, Persian, Thracian, Etruscan, Iberian, Roman, Byzantine, Bulgarian, Arab, Berbers, Ottoman, Christian and Islamic cultures.

The countries surrounding the Mediterranean in clockwise order are Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco; Malta and Cyprus are island countries in the sea. In addition, the Gaza Strip and the British Overseas Territories of Gibraltar and Akrotiri and Dhekelia have coastlines on the sea.

France Republic with majority of territory in Europe and numerous oversea territories around the world

France, officially the French Republic, is a sovereign state whose territory consists of metropolitan France in Western Europe and several overseas regions and territories. The metropolitan area of France extends from the Mediterranean Sea to the English Channel and the North Sea, and from the Rhine to the Atlantic Ocean. It is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg and Germany to the northeast, Switzerland and Italy to the east, and Andorra and Spain to the south. The overseas territories include French Guiana in South America and several islands in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian oceans. The country's 18 integral regions span a combined area of 643,801 square kilometres (248,573 sq mi) and a total population of 67.02 million. France is a unitary semi-presidential republic with its capital in Paris, the country's largest city and main cultural and commercial centre. Other major urban areas include Lyon, Marseille, Toulouse, Bordeaux, Lille and Nice.

Monaco Country in Europe

Monaco, officially the Principality of Monaco, is a sovereign city-state, country, and microstate on the French Riviera in Western Europe. France borders the country on three sides while the other side borders the Mediterranean Sea. Monaco is about 15 km from the state border with Italy.

Italy republic in Southern Europe

Italy, officially the Italian Republic, is a Southern European country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Alps and surrounded by several islands. Located in the middle of the Mediterranean sea and traversed along its length by the Apennines, Italy has a largely temperate seasonal and Mediterranean climate. The country covers a total area of 301,340 km2 (116,350 sq mi), and land area of 294,140 km2 (113,570 sq mi), and shares open land borders with France, Slovenia, Austria, Switzerland and the enclaved microstates of Vatican City and San Marino. Italy has a territorial exclave in Switzerland (Campione) and a maritime exclave in the Tunisian Sea (Lampedusa). With around 60 million inhabitants, Italy is the fourth-most populous member state of the European Union.

Names and etymology

With its highly indented coastline and large number of islands, Greece has the longest Mediterranean coastline. EFS highres STS034 STS034-86-96.jpg
With its highly indented coastline and large number of islands, Greece has the longest Mediterranean coastline.

The Ancient Greeks called the Mediterranean simply ἡ θάλασσα (hē thálassa; "the Sea") or sometimes ἡ μεγάλη θάλασσα (hē megálē thálassa; "the Great Sea"), ἡ ἡμέτερα θάλασσα (hē hēmétera thálassa; "Our Sea"), or ἡ θάλασσα ἡ καθ'ἡμᾶς (hē thálassa hē kath’hēmâs; "the sea around us").

The Romans called it Mare Magnum ("Great Sea") or Mare Internum ("Internal Sea") and, starting with the Roman Empire, Mare Nostrum ("Our Sea"). The term Mare Mediterrāneum appears later: Solinus apparently used it in the 3rd century, but the earliest extant witness to it is in the 6th century, in Isidore of Seville. [5] [6] It means 'in the middle of land, inland' in Latin, a compound of medius ("middle"), terra ("land, earth"), and -āneus ("having the nature of").

Roman Empire Period of Imperial Rome following the Roman Republic (27 BC–476 AD)

The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of ancient Rome, consisting of large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean sea in Europe, North Africa and West Asia ruled by emperors. From the accession of Caesar Augustus to the military anarchy of the third century, it was a principate with Italy as metropole of the provinces and its city of Rome as sole capital. The Roman Empire was then ruled by multiple emperors and divided into a Western Roman Empire, based in Milan and later Ravenna, and an Eastern Roman Empire, based in Nicomedia and later Constantinople. Rome remained the nominal capital of both parts until 476 AD, when it sent the imperial insignia to Constantinople following the capture of Ravenna by the barbarians of Odoacer and the subsequent deposition of Romulus Augustus. The fall of the Western Roman Empire to Germanic kings, along with the hellenization of the Eastern Roman Empire into the Byzantine Empire, is conventionally used to mark the end of Ancient Rome and the beginning of the Middle Ages.

<i>Mare Nostrum</i> Roman name for the Mediterranean Sea

Mare Nostrum was a Roman name for the Mediterranean Sea. In Classical Latin it was pronounced [ˈma.rɛ ˈnɔs.trũ], and in Ecclesiastical Latin it is pronounced [ˈma.ɾe ˈnos.trum].

Gaius Julius Solinus, Latin grammarian and compiler, probably flourished in the early 3rd century AD. Historical scholar Theodor Mommsen dates him to the middle of the 3rd century.

The Latin word is a calque of Greek μεσόγειος (mesógeios; "inland"), from μέσος (mésos, "in the middle") and γήινος (gḗinos, "of the earth"), from γῆ (, "land, earth"). The original meaning may have been 'the sea in the middle of the earth', rather than 'the sea enclosed by land'. [7] [8]

The Carthaginians called it the "Syrian Sea". In ancient Syrian texts, Phoenician epics and in the Hebrew Bible, it was primarily known as the "Great Sea" (הַיָּם הַגָּדוֹל, HaYam HaGadol, Numbers 34:6,7; Joshua 1:4, 9:1, 15:47; Ezekiel 47:10,15,20) or simply as "The Sea" (1 Kings 5:9; compare 1 Macc. 14:34, 15:11); however, it has also been called the "Hinder Sea" (הַיָּם הָאַחֲרוֹן) because of its location on the west coast of Greater Syria or the Holy Land (and therefore behind a person facing the east), which is sometimes translated as "Western Sea", (Deut. 11:24; Joel 2:20). Another name was the "Sea of the Philistines" (יָם פְּלִשְׁתִּים, Exod. 23:31), from the people inhabiting a large portion of its shores near the Israelites. In Modern Hebrew, it is called HaYam HaTikhon (הַיָּם הַתִּיכוֹן) 'the Middle Sea'. [9]

In Modern Arabic, it is known as al-Baḥr [al-Abyaḍ] al-Mutawassiṭ (البحر [الأبيض] المتوسط) 'the [White] Middle Sea'. In Islamic and older Arabic literature, it was Baḥr al-Rūm(ī) (بحر الروم or بحر الرومي}) 'the Sea of the Romans' or 'the Roman Sea'. At first, that name referred to only the Eastern Mediterranean, but it was later extended to the whole Mediterranean. Other Arabic names were Baḥr al-šām(ī) (بحر الشام) 'the Sea of Syria' and Baḥr al-Maghrib (بحرالمغرب) 'the Sea of the West'. [10] [6]

In Turkish, it is the Akdeniz 'the White Sea'; in Ottoman, ﺁق دكيز, which sometimes means only the Aegean Sea. [11] The origin of the name is not clear, as it is not known in earlier Greek, Byzantine or Islamic sources. It may be to contrast with the Black Sea. [10] [9] [12] In Persian, the name was translated as Baḥr-i Safīd, which was also used in later Ottoman Turkish. It is probably the origin of the colloquial Greek phrase Άσπρη Θάλασσα (Άspri Thálassa, lit. "White Sea"). [10]

Johann Knobloch claims that in Classical Antiquity, cultures in the Levant used colours to refer to the cardinal points: black referred to the north (explaining the name Black Sea), yellow or blue to east, red to south (i.e., the Red Sea), and white to west. This would explain the Greek Άspri Thálassa, the Bulgarian Byalo More, the Turkish Akdeniz, and the Arab nomenclature described above, lit. "White Sea". [13]

History

Ancient civilizations

Greek (red) and Phoenician (yellow) colonies in antiquity c. the 6th century BCE AntikeGriechen1.jpg
Greek (red) and Phoenician (yellow) colonies in antiquity c. the 6th century BCE
The Roman Empire at its farthest extent in AD 117 Roman Empire Trajan 117AD.png
The Roman Empire at its farthest extent in AD 117

Several ancient civilizations were located around the Mediterranean shores and were greatly influenced by their proximity to the sea. It provided routes for trade, colonization, and war, as well as food (from fishing and the gathering of other seafood) for numerous communities throughout the ages. [14]

Due to the shared climate, geology, and access to the sea, cultures centered on the Mediterranean tended to have some extent of intertwined culture and history.

Two of the most notable Mediterranean civilizations in classical antiquity were the Greek city states and the Phoenicians, both of which extensively colonized the coastlines of the Mediterranean. Later, when Augustus founded the Roman Empire, the Romans referred to the Mediterranean as Mare Nostrum ("Our Sea"). For the next 400 years, the Roman Empire completely controlled the Mediterranean Sea and virtually all its coastal regions from Gibraltar to the Levant.

Darius I of Persia, who conquered Ancient Egypt, built a canal linking the Mediterranean to the Red Sea. Darius's canal was wide enough for two triremes to pass each other with oars extended, and required four days to traverse. [15]

Middle Ages and empires

The Battle of Lepanto, 1571, ended in victory for the European Holy League against the Ottoman Turks. Battle of Lepanto 1571.jpg
The Battle of Lepanto, 1571, ended in victory for the European Holy League against the Ottoman Turks.

The Western Roman Empire collapsed around AD 476. Temporarily the east was again dominant as Roman power lived on in the Byzantine Empire formed in the 4th century from the eastern half of the Roman Empire. Another power arose in the 7th century, and with it the religion of Islam, which soon swept across from the east; at its greatest extent, the Arab Empire controlled 75% of the Mediterranean region and left a lasting footprint on its eastern and southern shores.

The Arab invasions disrupted the trade relations between Western and Eastern Europe while cutting the trade route with Oriental lands. This, however, had the indirect effect of promoting the trade across the Caspian Sea. The export of grains from Egypt was re-routed towards the Eastern world. Oriental goods like silk and spices were carried from Egypt to ports like Venice and Constantinople by sailors and Jewish merchants. The Viking raids further disrupted the trade in western Europe and brought it to a halt. However, the Norsemen developed the trade from Norway to the White Sea, while also trading in luxury goods from Spain and the Mediterranean. The Byzantines in the mid-8th century retook control of the area around the north-eastern part of the Mediterranean. Venetian ships from the 9th century armed themselves to counter the harassment by Arabs while concentrating trade of oriental goods at Venice. [16]

The Fatimids maintained trade relations with the Italian city-states like Amalfi and Genoa before the Crusades, according to the Cairo Geniza documents. A document dated 996 mentions Amalfian merchants living in Cairo. Another letter states that the Genoese had traded with Alexandria. The caliph al-Mustansir had allowed Amalfian merchants to reside in Jerusalem about 1060 in place of the Latin hospice. [17]

The Crusades led to flourishing of trade between Europe and the outremer region. [18] Genoa, Venica and Pisa created colonies in regions controlled by the Crusaders and came to control the trade with the Orient. These colonies also allowed them to trade with the Eastern world. Though the fall of the Crusader states and attempts at banning of trade relations with Muslim states by the Popes temporarily disrupted the trade with the Orient, it however continued. [19]

Europe started to revive, however, as more organized and centralized states began to form in the later Middle Ages after the Renaissance of the 12th century.

The bombardment of Algiers by the Anglo-Dutch fleet in support of an ultimatum to release European slaves, August 1816 De Engels-Nederlandse vloot in de Baai van Algiers ter ondersteuning van het ultimatum tot vrijlating van blanke slaven, 26 augustus 1816. Rijksmuseum SK-A-1377.jpeg
The bombardment of Algiers by the Anglo-Dutch fleet in support of an ultimatum to release European slaves, August 1816

Ottoman power based in Anatolia continued to grow, and in 1453 extinguished the Byzantine Empire with the Conquest of Constantinople. Ottomans gained control of much of the sea in the 16th century and maintained naval bases in southern France (1543–1544), Algeria and Tunisia. Barbarossa, the famous Ottoman captain is a symbol of this domination with the victory of the Battle of Preveza (1538). The Battle of Djerba (1560) marked the apex of Ottoman naval domination in the Mediterranean. As the naval prowess of the European powers increased, they confronted Ottoman expansion in the region when the Battle of Lepanto (1571) checked the power of the Ottoman Navy. This was the last naval battle to be fought primarily between galleys.

The Barbary pirates of Northwest Africa preyed on Christian shipping and coastlines in the Western Mediterranean Sea. [20] According to Robert Davis, from the 16th to 19th centuries, pirates captured 1 million to 1.25 million Europeans as slaves. [21]

The development of oceanic shipping began to affect the entire Mediterranean. Once, most trade between Western Europe and the East had passed through the region, but after the 1490s the development of a sea route to the Indian Ocean allowed the importation of Asian spices and other goods through the Atlantic ports of western Europe. [22] [23] [24]

The sea remained strategically important. British mastery of Gibraltar ensured their influence in Africa and Southwest Asia. Wars included Naval warfare in the Mediterranean during World War I and Mediterranean theatre of World War II.

21st century and migrations

BlackMarble20161km.jpg
Satellite image of the Mediterranean Sea at night

In 2013 the Maltese president described the Mediterranean sea as a "cemetery" due to the large number of migrants who drowned there after their boats capsized. [25] European Parliament president Martin Schulz said in 2014 that Europe's migration policy "turned the Mediterranean into a graveyard", referring to the number of drowned refugees in the region as a direct result of the policies. [26] An Azerbaijani official described the sea as "a burial ground ... where people die". [27]

Following the 2013 Lampedusa migrant shipwreck, the Italian government decided to strengthen the national system for the patrolling of the Mediterranean Sea by authorising "Operation Mare Nostrum", a military and humanitarian mission in order to rescue the migrants and arrest the traffickers of immigrants. In 2015, more than one million migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea into Europe. [28]

Italy was particularly affected by the European migrant crisis. Since 2013, over 700,000 migrants have landed in Italy, [29] mainly sub-Saharan Africans. [30]

In 2019 the archaeological team of experts from Underwater Research Center of the Akdeniz University (UA) revealed a shipwreck dated back 3600 years in the Mediterranean Sea in Turkey in 2019. It was possible to measure the age of the remains thanks to 1.5 tons of copper ingots found in the ship. The Governor of Antalya Munir Karaloğlu described this valuable discovery as the "Göbeklitepe of the underwater world”. It has been confirmed that the shipwreck dating back to 1600 BC is older than the "Uluburun Shipwreck" dating back to 1400 BC and Greek merchant ship dating 2400 years back. [31] [32] [33] [34]

Geography

STS059-238-074 Strait of Gibraltar.jpg
A satellite image showing the Mediterranean Sea. The Strait of Gibraltar can be seen in the bottom left (north-west) quarter of the image; to its left is the Iberian Peninsula in Europe, and to its right, the Maghreb in Africa.
Gallipoli peninsula from space.jpg
The Dardanelles strait in Turkey. The north side is Europe with the Gelibolu Peninsula in the Thrace region; the south side is Anatolia in Asia.

The Mediterranean Sea is connected to the Atlantic Ocean by the Strait of Gibraltar (known in Homer's writings as the "Pillars of Hercules") in the west and to the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, by the Straits of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus respectively, in the east. The Sea of Marmara (Dardanelles) is often considered a part of the Mediterranean Sea, whereas the Black Sea is generally not. The 163 km (101 mi) long artificial Suez Canal in the southeast connects the Mediterranean Sea to the Red Sea. [9]

Large islands in the Mediterranean include Cyprus, Crete, Euboea, Rhodes, Lesbos, Chios, Kefalonia, Corfu, Limnos, Samos, Naxos and Andros in the Eastern Mediterranean; Sicily, Cres, Krk, Brač, Hvar, Pag, Korčula and Malta in the central Mediterranean; Sardinia, Corsica, and the Balearic Islands: Ibiza, Majorca, and Menorca in the Western Mediterranean.

The typical Mediterranean climate has hot, humid, and dry summers and mild, rainy winters. Crops of the region include olives, grapes, oranges, tangerines, and cork.

Extent

The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Mediterranean Sea as follows: [35]

Stretching from the Strait of Gibraltar in the west to the entrances to the Dardanelles and the Suez Canal in the east, the Mediterranean Sea is bounded by the coasts of Europe, Africa and Asia, and is divided into two deep basins:

Coastal countries

Map of the Mediterranean Sea Mediterranean Relief, 1028 x 1024.jpg
Map of the Mediterranean Sea

The following countries have a coastline on the Mediterranean Sea:

Several other territories also border the Mediterranean Sea (from west to east): The British overseas territory of Gibraltar, the Spanish autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla and nearby islands, the Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus, and the Palestinian Gaza Strip.

Barcelona, the third largest metropolitan area on the Mediterranean Sea (after Istanbul and Alexandria) and the headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean Barcelona skyline.jpg
Barcelona, the third largest metropolitan area on the Mediterranean Sea (after Istanbul and Alexandria) and the headquarters of the Union for the Mediterranean
The Acropolis of Athens with the Mediterranean Sea in the background Attica 06-13 Athens 36 View from Lycabettus.jpg
The Acropolis of Athens with the Mediterranean Sea in the background
The ancient port of Jaffa (now part of Tel Aviv-Yafo) in Israel: according to the Bible, where Jonah set sail before being swallowed by a whale Coast of Tel Aviv-Yaffo.JPG
The ancient port of Jaffa (now part of Tel Aviv-Yafo) in Israel: according to the Bible, where Jonah set sail before being swallowed by a whale
Alexandria, the second largest city on the Mediterranean after Istanbul, Turkey Alexandria coast (2715600220).jpg
Alexandria, the second largest city on the Mediterranean after Istanbul, Turkey
Catania, Sicily, with Mount Etna in the background Catania-etna.JPG
Catania, Sicily, with Mount Etna in the background
Izmir, the third metropolis of Turkey after Istanbul and Ankara View of Konaj Square.jpg
İzmir, the third metropolis of Turkey after Istanbul and Ankara

Coastal cities

Major cities (municipalities) with populations larger than 200,000 people bordering the Mediterranean Sea are:

CountryCities
Algeria Algiers, Annaba, Oran
Egypt Alexandria, Damietta, Port Said
France Marseille, Nice
Greece Athens, Piraeus, Patras, Thessaloniki
Israel Ashdod, Haifa, Netanya, Rishon LeZion, Tel Aviv
Italy Bari, Catania, Genoa, Messina, Naples, Palermo, Rome, Taranto, Trieste, Venice
Lebanon Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon
Libya Benghazi, Khoms, Misrata, Tripoli, Zawiya, Zliten
Malta Valletta
Morocco Tétouan, Tangier
Palestine Gaza City
Spain Alicante, Badalona, Barcelona, Cartagena, Málaga, Palma, Valencia.
Syria Latakia
Tunisia Sfax, Sousse, Tunis
Turkey Adana, Antalya, Istanbul (through the Sea of Marmara), İzmir, Mersin

Subdivisions

Africa (left, on horizon) and Europe (right), as seen from Gibraltar Bucht & Strasse von Gibraltar.jpg
Africa (left, on horizon) and Europe (right), as seen from Gibraltar

The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) divides the Mediterranean into a number of smaller waterbodies, each with their own designation (from west to east): [35]

Other seas

Positano, Tyrrhenian Sea Positano - 01.jpg
Positano, Tyrrhenian Sea

Some other seas whose names have been in common use from the ancient times, or in the present:

Many of these smaller seas feature in local myth and folklore and derive their names from these associations.

Other features

View of the Saint George Bay, and snow-capped Mount Sannine from the Corniche, Beirut Beirut-Sannine.jpg
View of the Saint George Bay, and snow-capped Mount Sannine from the Corniche, Beirut
The Port of Marseille seen from L'Estaque Port Autonome de Marseille.JPG
The Port of Marseille seen from L'Estaque
Sarande, Albania is situated on an open sea gulf of the Ionian sea in the central Mediterranean. CIty of Saranda Albania 2016.jpg
Sarandë, Albania is situated on an open sea gulf of the Ionian sea in the central Mediterranean.

In addition to the seas, a number of gulfs and straits are recognised:

Ten largest islands by area

The two biggest islands of the Mediterranean: Sicily and Sardinia (Italy) Tunisia - Sicily - South Italy.jpg
The two biggest islands of the Mediterranean: Sicily and Sardinia (Italy)
CountryIslandArea in km2Population
Italy Sicily 25,4605,048,995
Italy Sardinia 23,8211,672,804
Cyprus Cyprus 9,2511,088,503
France Corsica 8,680299,209
Greece Crete 8,336623,666
Greece Euboea 3,655218.000
Spain Majorca 3,640869,067
Greece Lesbos 1,63290,643
Greece Rhodes 1,400117,007
Greece Chios 84251,936

Climate

Koppen World Map (Mediterranean Sea area only).png
Map of climate zones in the areas surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, according to the Köppen climate classification

Much of the Mediterranean coast enjoys a hot-summer Mediterranean climate. However, most of its southeastern coast has a hot desert climate, and much of Spain's eastern (Mediterranean) coast has a cold semi-arid climate. Although they are rare, tropical cyclones occasionally form in the Mediterranean Sea, typically in September–November.

Sea temperature

Mean sea temperature (°C)
JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDecYear
Marseille [37] 13131314161821222118161416.6
Gibraltar [38] 16151616172022222220181718.4
Málaga [39] 16151516172022232220181618.3
Athens [40] 16151516182124242421191819.3
Barcelona [41] 13131314172023252320171517.8
Heraklion [42] 16151516192224252422201819.7
Venice [43] 11101113182225262320161417.4
Valencia [44] 14131415172124262421181518.5
Malta [45] 16161516182124262523211819.9
Alexandria [46] 18171718202325262625222021.4
Naples [47] 15141415182225272522191619.3
Larnaca [48] 18171718202426272725221921.7
Limassol [49] 18171718202426272725221921.7
Antalya 17171718212427282725221921.8
Tel Aviv [50] 18171718212426282726232022.1

Oceanography

Predominant surface currents for June MEDCURR.GIF
Predominant surface currents for June

Being nearly landlocked affects conditions in the Mediterranean Sea: for instance, tides are very limited as a result of the narrow connection with the Atlantic Ocean. The Mediterranean is characterised and immediately recognised by its deep blue colour.

Evaporation greatly exceeds precipitation and river runoff in the Mediterranean, a fact that is central to the water circulation within the basin. [51] Evaporation is especially high in its eastern half, causing the water level to decrease and salinity to increase eastward. [52] The average salinity in the basin is 38 PSU at 5 m depth. [53] The temperature of the water in the deepest part of the Mediterranean Sea is 13.2 °C (55.8 °F). [53]

General circulation

Water circulation in the Mediterranean can be described from the surface waters entering from the Atlantic through the Strait of Gibraltar. These cool and relatively low-salinity waters circulate westwards along the North African coasts. A part of these surface waters does not pass the Strait of Sicily, but deviates towards Corsica before exiting the Mediterranean. The surface waters entering the eastern Mediterranean basin circulate along the Libyan and Israelian coasts. Upon reaching the Levantine Sea, the surface waters having experienced warming and saltening from their initial Atlantic state, are now more dense and deepen to form the Levantine Intermediate Waters (LIW). Most of the water found anywhere between 50 and 600 m deep in the Mediterranean originates from the LIW. [54] LIW are formed along the coasts of Turkey and circulate eastwards along the Greek and South Italian coasts. LIW are the only waters passing the Sicily Strait eastwards. After the Strait of Sicily, the intermediate waters circulate along the Italian, French and Spanish coasts before exiting the Mediterranean through the depths of the Strait of Gibraltar. Deep water in the Mediterranean originates from three main areas: the Adriatic Sea, from which most of the deep water in the eastern Mediterranean originates, the Aegean Sea, and the Gulf of Lion. Deep water formation in the Mediterranean is triggered by strong winter convection fueled by intense cold winds like the Bora. When new deep water is formed, the older waters mix with the overlaying intermediate waters and eventually exit the Mediterranean. The residence time of water in the Mediterranean is approximately 100 years, making the Mediterranean especially sensitive to climate change. [55]

Other events affecting water circulation

Being a semi-enclosed basin, the Mediterranean experiences transitory events that can affect the water circulation on short time scales. In the mid 1990s, the Aegean Sea became the main area for deep water formation in the eastern Mediterranean after particularly cold winter conditions. This transitory switch in the origin of deep waters in the eastern Mediterranean was termed Eastern Mediterranean Transient (EMT) and had major consequences on water circulation of the Mediterranean. [56] [57] [58]

Another example of a transient event affecting the Mediterranean circulation is the periodic inversion of the North Ionian Gyre, which is an anticyclonic ocean gyre observed in the northern part of the Ionian Sea, off the Greek coast. The transition from anticylonic to cyclonic rotation of this gyre changes the origin of the waters fueling it; when the circulation is anticyclonic (most common), the waters of the gyre originate from the Adriatic Sea. When the circulation is cyclonic, the waters originate from the Levantine Sea. These waters have different physical and chemical characteristics, and the periodic inversion of the North Ionian Gyre (called Bimodal Oscillating System or BiOS) changes the Mediterranean circulation and biogeochemistry around the Adriatic and Levantine regions. [59]

Climate change

Because of the short residence time of waters, the Mediterranean Sea is considered a hot-spot for climate change effects. [60] Deep water temperatures have increased by 0.12 °C between 1959 and 1989. [61] According to climate projections, the Mediterranean Sea could become warmer. The decrease in precipitation over the region could lead to more evaporation ultimately increasing the Mediterranean Sea salinity. [60] [62] Because of the changes in temperature and salinity, the Mediterranean Sea may become more stratified by the end of the 21st century, with notable consequences on water circulation and biogeochemistry.

Biogeochemistry

In spite of its great biodiversity, concentrations of chlorophyll and nutrients in the Mediterranean Sea are very low, making it one of the most oligotrophic ocean regions in the world. The Mediterranean Sea is commonly referred to as an LNLC (Low-Nutrient, Low-Chlorophyll) area. The Mediterranean Sea fits the definition of a desert as it has low precipitation and its nutrient contents are low, making it difficult for plants and animals to develop.

There are steep gradients in nutrient concentrations, chlorophyll concentrations and primary productivity in the Mediterranean. Nutrient concentrations in the western part of the basin are about double the concentrations in the eastern basin. The Alboran Sea, close to the Strait of Gibraltar, has a daily primary productivity of about 0.25 g C (grams of carbon) m−2 day−1 whereas the eastern basin has an average daily productivity of 0.16 g C m−2 day−1. [63] For this reason, the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea is termed "ultraoligotrophic". The productive areas of the Mediterranean Sea are few and small. High (i.e. more than 0.5 grams of Chlorophyll a per cubic meter) productivity occurs in coastal areas, close to the river mouths which are the primary suppliers of dissolved nutrients. The Gulf of Lion has a relatively high productivity because it is an area of high vertical mixing, bringing nutrients to the surface waters that can be used by phytoplankton to produce Chlorophyll a. [64]

Primary productivity in the Mediterranean is also marked by an intense seasonal variability. In winter, the strong winds and precipitation[ Contradicts statement above that precipitation is low ] over the basin generate vertical mixing, bringing nutrients from the deep waters to the surface, where phytoplankton can convert it into biomass. [65] However, in winter, light may be the limiting factor for primary productivity. Between March and April, spring offers the ideal trade-off between light intensity and nutrient concentrations in surface for a spring bloom to occur. In summer, high atmospheric temperatures lead to the warming of the surface waters. The resulting density difference virtually isolates the surface waters from the rest of the water column and nutrient exchanges are limited. As a consequence, primary productivity is very low between June and October. [66] [64]

Oceanographic expeditions uncovered a characteristic feature of the Mediterranean Sea biogeochemistry: most of the chlorophyll production does not occur on the surface, but in sub-surface waters between 80 and 200 meters deep. [67] Another key characteristic of the Mediterranean is its high nitrogen-to-phosphorus ratio (N:P). Redfield demonstrated that most of the world's oceans have an average N:P ratio around 16. However, the Mediterranean Sea has an average N:P between 24 and 29, which translates a widespread phosphorus limitation.[ clarification needed ] [68] [69] [70] [71]

Because of its low productivity, plankton assemblages in the Mediterranean Sea are dominated by small organisms such as picophytoplankton and bacteria. [72] [73]

Geology

A submarine karst spring, called vrulja, near Omis; observed through several ripplings of an otherwise calm sea surface. Vrulja kod Omisa.jpg
A submarine karst spring, called vrulja, near Omiš; observed through several ripplings of an otherwise calm sea surface.

The geologic history of the Mediterranean Sea is complex. Underlain by oceanic crust, the sea basin was once thought to be a tectonic remnant of the ancient Tethys Ocean; it is now known to be a structurally younger basin, called the Neotethys, which was first formed by the convergence of the African and Eurasian plates during the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic. Because it is a near-landlocked body of water in a normally dry climate, the Mediterranean is subject to intensive evaporation and the precipitation of evaporites. The Messinian salinity crisis started about six million years ago (mya) when the Mediterranean became landlocked, and then essentially dried up. There are salt deposits accumulated on the bottom of the basin of more than a million cubic kilometres—in some places more than three kilometres thick. [74] [75]

Scientists estimate that the sea was last filled about 5.3 million years ago (mya) in less than two years by the Zanclean flood. Water poured in from the Atlantic Ocean through a newly breached gateway now called the Strait of Gibraltar at an estimated rate of about three orders of magnitude (one thousand times) larger than the current flow of the Amazon River. [76]

The Mediterranean Sea has an average depth of 1,500 m (4,900 ft) and the deepest recorded point is 5,267 m (17,280 ft) in the Calypso Deep in the Ionian Sea. The coastline extends for 46,000 km (29,000 mi). A shallow submarine ridge (the Strait of Sicily) between the island of Sicily and the coast of Tunisia divides the sea in two main subregions: the Western Mediterranean, with an area of about 850,000 km2 (330,000 mi2); and the Eastern Mediterranean, of about 1.65 million km2 (640,000 mi2). Coastal areas have submarine karst springs or vruljas, which discharge pressurised groundwater into the water from below the surface; the discharge water is usually fresh, and sometimes may be thermal. [77] [78]

Tectonics and paleoenvironmental analysis

The Mediterranean basin and sea system was established by the ancient African-Arabian continent colliding with the Eurasian continent. As Africa-Arabia drifted northward, it closed over the ancient Tethys Ocean which had earlier separated the two supercontinents Laurasia and Gondwana. At about that time in the middle Jurassic period (roughly 170 million years ago [ dubious ]) a much smaller sea basin, dubbed the Neotethys, was formed shortly before the Tethys Ocean closed at its western (Arabian) end. The broad line of collisions pushed up a very long system of mountains from the Pyrenees in Spain to the Zagros Mountains in Iran in an episode of mountain-building tectonics known as the Alpine orogeny. The Neotethys grew larger during the episodes of collisions (and associated foldings and subductions) that occurred during the Oligocene and Miocene epochs (34 to 5.33 mya); see animation: Africa-Arabia colliding with Eurasia. Accordingly, the Mediterranean basin consists of several stretched tectonic plates in subduction which are the foundation of the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea. Various zones of subduction contain the highest oceanic ridges, east of the Ionian Sea and south of the Aegean. The Central Indian Ridge runs east of the Mediterranean Sea south-east across the in-between[ clarification needed ] of Africa and the Arabian Peninsula into the Indian Ocean.

Messinian salinity crisis

Messinian salinity crisis before the Zanclean flood Etapa3muda.jpg
Messinian salinity crisis before the Zanclean flood
Animation: Messinian salinity crisis

During Mesozoic and Cenozoic times, as the northwest corner of Africa converged on Iberia, it lifted the Betic-Rif mountain belts across southern Iberia and northwest Africa. There the development of the intramontane Betic and Rif basins created two roughly-parallel marine gateways between the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. Dubbed the Betic and Rifian corridors, they gradually closed during the middle and late Miocene: perhaps several times. [79] In the late Miocene the closure of the Betic Corridor triggered the so-called "Messinian salinity crisis" (MSC), when the Mediterranean almost entirely dried out. The start of the MSC was recently estimated astronomically at 5.96 mya, and it persisted for some 630,000 years until about 5.3 mya; [80] see Animation: Messinian salinity crisis, at right.

After the initial drawdown[ clarification needed ] and re-flooding there followed more episodes—the total number is debated—of sea drawdowns and re-floodings for the duration of the MSC. It ended when the Atlantic Ocean last re-flooded the basin—creating the Strait of Gibraltar and causing the Zanclean flood—at the end of the Miocene (5.33 mya). Some research has suggested that a desiccation-flooding-desiccation cycle may have repeated several times, which could explain several events of large amounts of salt deposition. [81] [82] Recent studies, however, show that repeated desiccation and re-flooding is unlikely from a geodynamic point of view. [83] [84]

Desiccation and exchanges of flora and fauna

The present-day Atlantic gateway, the Strait of Gibraltar, originated in the early Pliocene via the Zanclean Flood. As mentioned, there were two earlier gateways: the Betic Corridor across southern Spain and the Rifian Corridor across northern Morocco. The Betic closed about 6 mya, causing the Messinian salinity crisis (MSC); the Rifian or possibly both gateways closed during the earlier Tortonian times, causing a "Tortonian salinity crisis" (from 11.6 to 7.2 mya), long before the MSC and lasting much longer. Both "crises" resulted in broad connections between the mainlands of Africa and Europe, which allowed migrations of flora and fauna—especially large mammals including primates—between the two continents. The Vallesian crisis indicates a typical extinction and replacement of mammal species in Europe during Tortonian times following climatic upheaval and overland migrations of new species: [85] see Animation: Messinian salinity crisis (and mammal migrations), at right.

The almost complete enclosure of the Mediterranean basin has enabled the oceanic gateways to dominate seawater circulation and the environmental evolution of the sea and basin. Circulation patterns are also affected by several other factors—including climate, bathymetry, and water chemistry and temperature—which are interactive and can induce precipitation of evaporites. Deposits of evaporites accumulated earlier in the nearby Carpathian foredeep during the Middle Miocene, and the adjacent Red Sea Basin (during the Late Miocene), and in the whole Mediterranean basin (during the MSC and the Messinian age). Many diatomites are found underneath the evaporite deposits, suggesting a connection between their[ clarification needed ] formations.

Today, evaporation of surface seawater (output) is more than the supply (input) of fresh water by precipitation and coastal drainage systems, causing the salinity of the Mediterranean to be much higher than that of the Atlantic—so much so that the saltier Mediterranean waters sink below the waters incoming from the Atlantic, causing a two-layer flow across the Strait of Gibraltar: that is, an outflow submarine current of warm saline Mediterranean water, counterbalanced by an inflow surface current of less saline cold oceanic water from the Atlantic. In the 1920s, Herman Sörgel proposed the building of a hydroelectric dam (the Atlantropa project) across the Straits, using the inflow current to provide a large amount of hydroelectric energy. The underlying energy grid was also intended to support a political union between Europe and, at least, the Maghreb part of Africa (compare Eurafrika for the later impact and Desertec for a later project with some parallels in the planned grid). [86]

Shift to a "Mediterranean climate"

The end of the Miocene also marked a change in the climate of the Mediterranean basin. Fossil evidence from that period reveals that the larger basin had a humid subtropical climate with rainfall in the summer supporting laurel forests. The shift to a "Mediterranean climate" occurred largely within the last three million years (the late Pliocene epoch) as summer rainfall decreased. The subtropical laurel forests retreated; and even as they persisted on the islands of Macaronesia off the Atlantic coast of Iberia and North Africa, the present Mediterranean vegetation evolved, dominated by coniferous trees and sclerophyllous trees and shrubs with small, hard, waxy leaves that prevent moisture loss in the dry summers. Much of these forests and shrublands have been altered beyond recognition by thousands of years of human habitation. There are now very few relatively intact natural areas in what was once a heavily wooded region.

Paleoclimate

Because of its latitude and its land-locked position, the Mediterranean is especially sensitive to astronomically induced climatic variations, which are well documented in its sedimentary record. Since the Mediterranean is subject to the deposition of eolian dust from the Sahara during dry periods, whereas riverine detrital input prevails during wet ones, the Mediterranean marine sapropel-bearing sequences provide high-resolution climatic information. These data have been employed in reconstructing astronomically calibrated time scales for the last 9 Ma of the Earth's history, helping to constrain the time of past geomagnetic reversals. [87] Furthermore, the exceptional accuracy of these paleoclimatic records has improved our knowledge of the Earth's orbital variations in the past.

Biodiversity

Unlike the vast multidirectional ocean currents in open oceans within their respective oceanic zones; biodiversity in the Mediterranean Sea is that of a stable one due to the subtle but strong locked nature of currents which affects favorably, even the smallest macroscopic type of volcanic life form. The stable marine ecosystem of the Mediterranean Sea and sea temperature provides a nourishing environment for life in the deep sea to flourish while assuring a balanced aquatic ecosystem excluded from any external deep oceanic factors. It is estimated that there are more than 17,000 marine species in the Mediterranean Sea with generally higher marine biodiversity in coastal areas, continental shelves, and decreases with depth [88] .

As a result of the drying of the sea during the Messinian salinity crisis, [89] the marine biota of the Mediterranean are derived primarily from the Atlantic Ocean. The North Atlantic is considerably colder and more nutrient-rich than the Mediterranean, and the marine life of the Mediterranean has had to adapt to its differing conditions in the five million years since the basin was reflooded.

The Alboran Sea is a transition zone between the two seas, containing a mix of Mediterranean and Atlantic species. The Alboran Sea has the largest population of bottlenose dolphins in the Western Mediterranean, is home to the last population of harbour porpoises in the Mediterranean, and is the most important feeding grounds for loggerhead sea turtles in Europe. The Alboran sea also hosts important commercial fisheries, including sardines and swordfish. The Mediterranean monk seals live in the Aegean Sea in Greece. In 2003, the World Wildlife Fund raised concerns about the widespread drift net fishing endangering populations of dolphins, turtles, and other marine animals such as the spiny squat lobster.

There was a resident population of killer whale in the Mediterranean until the 1980s, when they went extinct, probably due to longterm PCB exposure. There are still annual sightings of killer whale vagrants. [90]

Environmental issues

For 4,000 years, human activity has transformed most parts of Mediterranean Europe, and the "humanisation of the landscape" overlapped with the appearance of the present Mediterranean climate. [91] The image of a simplistic, environmental determinist notion of a Mediterranean paradise on Earth in antiquity, which was destroyed by later civilisations, dates back to at least the 18th century and was for centuries fashionable in archaeological and historical circles. Based on a broad variety of methods, e.g. historical documents, analysis of trade relations, floodplain sediments, pollen, tree-ring and further archaeometric analyses and population studies, Alfred Thomas Grove's and Oliver Rackham's work on "The Nature of Mediterranean Europe" challenges this common wisdom of a Mediterranean Europe as a "Lost Eden", a formerly fertile and forested region, that had been progressively degraded and desertified by human mismanagement. [91] The belief stems more from the failure of the recent landscape to measure up to the imaginary past of the classics as idealised by artists, poets and scientists of the early modern Enlightenment. [91]

The historical evolution of climate, vegetation and landscape in southern Europe from prehistoric times to the present is much more complex and underwent various changes. For example, some of the deforestation had already taken place before the Roman age. While in the Roman age large enterprises such as the latifundia took effective care of forests and agriculture, the largest depopulation effects came with the end of the empire. Some[ who? ] assume that the major deforestation took place in modern times—the later usage patterns were also quite different e.g. in southern and northern Italy. Also, the climate has usually been unstable and there is evidence of various ancient and modern "Little Ice Ages", [92] and plant cover accommodated to various extremes and became resilient to various patterns of human activity. [91]

Human activity was therefore not the cause of climate change but followed it. [91] The wide ecological diversity typical of Mediterranean Europe is predominantly based on human behavior, as it is and has been closely related human usage patterns. [91] The diversity range[ clarification needed ] was enhanced by the widespread exchange and interaction of the longstanding and highly diverse local agriculture, intense transport and trade relations, and the interaction with settlements, pasture and other land use. The greatest human-induced changes, however, came after World War II, in line with the "1950s syndrome" [93] as rural populations throughout the region abandoned traditional subsistence economies. Grove and Rackham suggest that the locals left the traditional agricultural patterns and instead became scenery-setting agents[ clarification needed ] for tourism. This resulted in more uniform, large-scale formations[ of what? ]. [91] Among further current important threats to Mediterranean landscapes are overdevelopment of coastal areas, abandonment of mountains and, as mentioned, the loss of variety via the reduction of traditional agricultural occupations. [91]

Natural hazards

Stromboli volcano in Italy DenglerSW-Stromboli-20040928-1230x800.jpg
Stromboli volcano in Italy

The region has a variety of geological hazards which have closely interacted with human activity and land use patterns. Among others, in the eastern Mediterranean, the Thera eruption, dated to the 17th or 16th century BC, caused a large tsunami that some experts hypothesise devastated the Minoan civilisation on the nearby island of Crete, further leading some to believe that this may have been the catastrophe that inspired the Atlantis legend. [94] Mount Vesuvius is the only active volcano on the European mainland, while others, Mount Etna and Stromboli, are on neighbouring islands. The region around Vesuvius including the Phlegraean Fields Caldera west of Naples are quite active [95] and constitute the most densely populated volcanic region in the world where an eruptive event may occur within decades. [96]

Vesuvius itself is regarded as quite dangerous due to a tendency towards explosive (Plinian) eruptions. [97] It is best known for its eruption in AD 79 that led to the burying and destruction of the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum.

The large experience[ clarification needed ] of member states and regional authorities has led to exchange[ of what? ] on the international level with cooperation of NGOs, states, regional and municipality authorities and private persons. [98] The Greek–Turkish earthquake diplomacy is a quite positive example of natural hazards leading to improved relations between traditional rivals in the region after earthquakes in İzmir and Athens in 1999. The European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was set up to respond to major natural disasters and express European solidarity to disaster-stricken regions within all of Europe. [99] The largest amount of funding requests in the EU relates to forest fires, followed by floods and earthquakes. Forest fires, whether man made or natural, are a frequent and dangerous hazard in the Mediterranean region. [98] Tsunamis are also an often underestimated hazard in the region. For example, the 1908 Messina earthquake and tsunami took more than 123,000 lives in Sicily and Calabria and was among the most deadly natural disasters in modern Europe.

Invasive species

The reticulate whipray is one of the species that colonised the Eastern Mediterranean through the Suez Canal as part of the ongoing Lessepsian migration. Himantura uarnak egypt.jpg
The reticulate whipray is one of the species that colonised the Eastern Mediterranean through the Suez Canal as part of the ongoing Lessepsian migration.

The opening of the Suez Canal in 1869 created the first salt-water passage between the Mediterranean and the Red Sea. The Red Sea is higher than the Eastern Mediterranean, so the canal functions as a tidal strait that pours Red Sea water into the Mediterranean. The Bitter Lakes, which are hyper-saline natural lakes that form part of the canal, blocked the migration of Red Sea species into the Mediterranean for many decades, but as the salinity of the lakes gradually equalised with that of the Red Sea, the barrier to migration was removed, and plants and animals from the Red Sea have begun to colonise the Eastern Mediterranean. The Red Sea is generally saltier and more nutrient-poor than the Atlantic, so the Red Sea species have advantages over Atlantic species in the salty and nutrient-poor Eastern Mediterranean. Accordingly, Red Sea species invade the Mediterranean biota, and not vice versa; this phenomenon is known as the Lessepsian migration (after Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French engineer) or Erythrean ("red") invasion. The construction of the Aswan High Dam across the Nile River in the 1960s reduced the inflow of freshwater and nutrient-rich silt from the Nile into the Eastern Mediterranean, making conditions there even more like the Red Sea and worsening the impact of the invasive species.

Invasive species have become a major component of the Mediterranean ecosystem and have serious impacts on the Mediterranean ecology, endangering many local and endemic Mediterranean species. A first look at some groups of exotic species shows that more than 70% of the non-indigenous decapods and about 63% of the exotic fishes occurring in the Mediterranean are of Indo-Pacific origin, [100] introduced into the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal. This makes the Canal the first pathway of arrival of alien species into the Mediterranean. The impacts of some Lessepsian species have proven to be considerable, mainly in the Levantine basin of the Mediterranean, where they are replacing native species and becoming a familiar sight.

According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature definition, as well as Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and Ramsar Convention terminologies, they are alien species, as they are non-native (non-indigenous) to the Mediterranean Sea, and they are outside their normal area of distribution which is the Indo-Pacific region. When these species succeed in establishing populations in the Mediterranean Sea, compete with and begin to replace native species they are "Alien Invasive Species", as they are an agent of change and a threat to the native biodiversity. In the context of CBD, "introduction" refers to the movement by human agency, indirect or direct, of an alien species outside of its natural range (past or present). The Suez Canal, being an artificial (man made) canal, is a human agency. Lessepsian migrants are therefore "introduced" species (indirect, and unintentional). Whatever wording is chosen, they represent a threat to the native Mediterranean biodiversity, because they are non-indigenous to this sea. In recent years, the Egyptian government's announcement of its intentions to deepen and widen the canal have raised concerns from marine biologists, fearing that such an act will only worsen the invasion of Red Sea species into the Mediterranean, and lead to even more species passing through the canal. [101]

Arrival of new tropical Atlantic species

In recent decades, the arrival of exotic species from the tropical Atlantic has become noticeable. Whether this reflects an expansion of the natural area of these species that now enter the Mediterranean through the Gibraltar strait, because of a warming trend of the water caused by global warming; or an extension of the maritime traffic; or is simply the result of a more intense scientific investigation, is still an open question. While not as intense as the "Lessepsian" movement, the process may be of scientific interest and may therefore[ non sequitur ] warrant increased levels of monitoring.[ citation needed ]

Sea-level rise

By 2100 the overall level of the Mediterranean could rise between 3 to 61 cm (1.2 to 24.0 in) as a result of the effects of climate change. [102] This could have adverse effects on populations across the Mediterranean:

Coastal ecosystems also appear to be threatened by sea level rise, especially enclosed seas such as the Baltic, the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. These seas have only small and primarily east-west movement corridors, which may restrict northward displacement of organisms in these areas. [105] Sea level rise for the next century (2100) could be between 30 cm (12 in) and 100 cm (39 in) and temperature shifts of a mere 0.05–0.1 °C in the deep sea are sufficient to induce significant changes in species richness and functional diversity. [106]

Pollution

Pollution in this region has been extremely high in recent years.[ when? ] The United Nations Environment Programme has estimated that 650,000,000 t (720,000,000 short tons) of sewage, 129,000 t (142,000 short tons) of mineral oil, 60,000 t (66,000 short tons) of mercury, 3,800 t (4,200 short tons) of lead and 36,000 t (40,000 short tons) of phosphates are dumped into the Mediterranean each year. [107] The Barcelona Convention aims to 'reduce pollution in the Mediterranean Sea and protect and improve the marine environment in the area, thereby contributing to its sustainable development.' [108] Many marine species have been almost wiped out because of the sea's pollution. One of them is the Mediterranean monk seal which is considered to be among the world's most endangered marine mammals. [109]

The Mediterranean is also plagued by marine debris. A 1994 study of the seabed using trawl nets around the coasts of Spain, France and Italy reported a particularly high mean concentration of debris; an average of 1,935 items per km2. Plastic debris accounted for 76%, of which 94% was plastic bags. [110]

Shipping

A cargo ship cruises towards the Strait of Messina Portacontainer MSC in navigazione nello stretto di Messina.jpg
A cargo ship cruises towards the Strait of Messina

Some of the world's busiest shipping routes are in the Mediterranean Sea. It is estimated that approximately 220,000 merchant vessels of more than 100 tonnes cross the Mediterranean Sea each year—about one third of the world's total merchant shipping. These ships often carry hazardous cargo, which if lost would result in severe damage to the marine environment.

The discharge of chemical tank washings and oily wastes also represent a significant source of marine pollution. The Mediterranean Sea constitutes 0.7% of the global water surface and yet receives 17% of global marine oil pollution. It is estimated that every year between 100,000 t (98,000 long tons) and 150,000 t (150,000 long tons) of crude oil are deliberately released into the sea from shipping activities.

Approximately 370,000,000 t (360,000,000 long tons) of oil are transported annually in the Mediterranean Sea (more than 20% of the world total), with around 250–300 oil tankers crossing the sea every day. Accidental oil spills happen frequently with an average of 10 spills per year. A major oil spill could occur at any time in any part of the Mediterranean. [106]

Tourism

Antalya on the Turkish Riviera (Turquoise Coast) received more than 11 million international tourist arrivals in 2014. Turkey-2459 (2216286345).jpg
Antalya on the Turkish Riviera (Turquoise Coast) received more than 11 million international tourist arrivals in 2014.

Tourism is one of the most important sources of income for many Mediterranean countries, despite the man-made geopolitical conflicts[ clarification needed ] in the region. The countries have tried to extinguish rising man-made chaotic zones[ clarification needed ] that might affect the region's economies and societies in neighboring coastal countries, and shipping routes. Naval and rescue components in the Mediterranean Sea are considered to be among the best[ citation needed ] due to the rapid cooperation between various naval fleets. Unlike the vast open oceans, the sea's closed position facilitates effective naval and rescue missions[ citation needed ], considered the safest[ citation needed ] and regardless of[ clarification needed ] any man-made or natural disaster.

Tourism is a source of income for small coastal communities, including islands, independent of urban centers. However, tourism has also played major role in the degradation of the coastal and marine environment. Rapid development has been encouraged by Mediterranean governments to support the large numbers of tourists visiting the region; but this has caused serious disturbance to marine habitats by erosion and pollution in many places along the Mediterranean coasts.

Tourism often concentrates in areas of high natural wealth[ clarification needed ], causing a serious threat to the habitats of endangered species such as sea turtles and monk seals. Reductions in natural wealth may reduce the incentive for tourists to visit. [106]

Overfishing

Fish stock levels in the Mediterranean Sea are alarmingly low. The European Environment Agency says that more than 65% of all fish stocks in the region are outside safe biological limits and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, that some of the most important fisheries—such as albacore and bluefin tuna, hake, marlin, swordfish, red mullet and sea bream—are threatened.[ date missing ]

There are clear indications that catch size and quality have declined, often dramatically, and in many areas larger and longer-lived species have disappeared entirely from commercial catches.

Large open water fish like tuna have been a shared fisheries resource for thousands of years but the stocks are now dangerously low. In 1999, Greenpeace published a report revealing that the amount of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean had decreased by over 80% in the previous 20 years and government scientists warn that without immediate action the stock will collapse.

See also

Related Research Articles

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Physical oceanography is the study of physical conditions and physical processes within the ocean, especially the motions and physical properties of ocean waters.

Thermohaline circulation A part of the large-scale ocean circulation that is driven by global density gradients created by surface heat and freshwater fluxes

Thermohaline circulation (THC) is a part of the large-scale ocean circulation that is driven by global density gradients created by surface heat and freshwater fluxes. The adjective thermohaline derives from thermo- referring to temperature and -haline referring to salt content, factors which together determine the density of sea water. Wind-driven surface currents travel polewards from the equatorial Atlantic Ocean, cooling en route, and eventually sinking at high latitudes. This dense water then flows into the ocean basins. While the bulk of it upwells in the Southern Ocean, the oldest waters upwell in the North Pacific. Extensive mixing therefore takes place between the ocean basins, reducing differences between them and making the Earth's oceans a global system. The water in these circuits transport both energy and mass around the globe. As such, the state of the circulation has a large impact on the climate of the Earth.

In geomorphology, an outburst flood — a type of megaflood — is a high-magnitude, low-frequency catastrophic flood involving the sudden release of a large quantity of water. During the last deglaciation, numerous glacial lake outburst floods were caused by the collapse of either ice sheets or glaciers that formed the dams of proglacial lakes. Examples of older outburst floods are known from the geological past of the Earth and inferred from geomorphological evidence on Mars. Landslides, lahars, and volcanic dams can also block rivers and create lakes, which trigger such floods when the rock or earthen barrier collapses or is eroded. Lakes also form behind glacial moraines, which can collapse and create outburst floods.

The Messinian Salinity Crisis (MSC), also referred to as the Messinian Event, and in its latest stage as the Lago Mare event, was a geological event during which the Mediterranean Sea went into a cycle of partly or nearly complete desiccation throughout the latter part of the Messinian age of the Miocene epoch, from 5.96 to 5.33 Ma. It ended with the Zanclean flood, when the Atlantic reclaimed the basin.

The Zanclean is the lowest stage or earliest age on the geologic time scale of the Pliocene. It spans the time between 5.332 ± 0.005 Ma and 3.6 ± 0.005 Ma. It is preceded by the Messinian age of the Miocene epoch, and followed by the Piacenzian age.

Norwegian Current A current that flows northeasterly along the Atlantic coast of Norway into the Barents Sea

The Norwegian Current is a water current that flows northeasterly along the Atlantic coast of Norway at depths of between 50 and 100 metres through the Barents Sea Opening into the Barents Sea. It contrasts with the North Atlantic Current because it is colder and contains less salt, having most of its tributary water coming from the slightly brackish North and Baltic seas, as well as the Norwegian fjords and rivers. It is, however, considerably warmer and saltier than the Arctic Ocean, which is freshened by the ice in and around it. Winter temperatures in the Norwegian current are typically between 2 and 5 °C whereas the temperature of the Atlantic water exceeds 6 °C.

Lessepsian migration

The Lessepsian migration is the migration of marine species across the Suez Canal, usually from the Red Sea to the Mediterranean Sea, and more rarely in the opposite direction. When the canal was completed in 1869, fish, crustaceans, mollusks, and other marine animals and plants were exposed to an artificial passage between the two naturally separate bodies of water, and cross-contamination was made possible between formerly isolated ecosystems. The phenomenon is still occurring today. It is named after Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French diplomat in charge of the canal's construction.

The Northwest Atlantic Marine Ecozone, as defined by the Commission for Environmental Cooperation (CEC), is a Canadian marine ecozone forming a transitional region between the cold northern waters of the Arctic Ocean and the more temperate waters in its southern extent.

The Camarinal Sill is the sill separating the Mediterranean Sea and the Atlantic Ocean. This threshold is the shallowest seafloor pass between the Iberian Peninsula and Africa. It is located near the Strait of Gibraltar and the Espartel Sill, at 35°56′N5°45′W, at an elevation of −280 m.

Fishing in Israel

Fishing in Israel is a branch of the Israeli economy with historical significance. The three main natural fishing zones are the Mediterranean Sea, the Gulf of Aqaba, and the Kinneret. A fourth area that was once historically significant, Lake Hula, no longer exists, as it was drained in the 1950s. In addition, aquaculture the growth of fish in ponds or in cages, is rising in prominence.

Levantine Sea The easternmost part of the Mediterranean Sea

The Levantine Sea is the easternmost part of the Mediterranean Sea.

Zanclean flood Theoretical refilling of the Mediterranean Sea between the Miocene and Pliocene Epochs

The Zanclean flood or Zanclean deluge is a flood theorized to have refilled the Mediterranean Sea 5.33 million years ago. This flooding ended the Messinian salinity crisis and reconnected the Mediterranean Sea to the Atlantic Ocean, although it is possible that even before the flood there were partial connections to the Atlantic Ocean. The reconnection marks the beginning of the Zanclean age.

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