Invasive species in the region

There is evidence that we are witnessing the introduction of new species into the Mediterranean (some sources say 350 new species), experts agree. Since the opening of the Suez Canal in 1869, several hundred species have entered the Mediterranean, some of which may be invasive. These species pose a real threat to biodiversity in the Mediterranean because it’s difficult to forecast what their impact is going to be. «Caulerpa taxifolia is one of the most worrying invasive algae in the Mediterranean at the moment,» Demetropoulos said. Carried around by ship anchors and fishing nets, it has been spreading fast since its accidental introduction into the marine environment in the 1980s through the aquarium of the Oceanographic Museum of Monaco. Its first direct impact is on other algae and on sea grasses, which it smothers and displaces. «And once a new species has infiltrated an entire sea, it is virtually impossible to get it out,» he remarked. «At the moment it’s like playing Russian roulette – we have no idea what’s coming through,» according to Demetropoulos, who has proposed the erection of suitable barriers such as salinity barriers in the Suez Canal to stop or at least minimize the flow of alien species into the Mediterranean. «If no effective measures are taken to stop new introductions, further instability of the Mediterranean ecosystem will be inevitable,» he warned. «And such disturbances of ecological equilibria also have economic repercussions on recreation, tourism and fisheries,» Demetropoulos added.

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