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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 690:31-50 (2022)  -  DOI:

The Mediterranean Rhodes Gyre: modelled impacts of climate change, acidification and fishing

Sonja M. van Leeuwen1,2,*, Jonathan A. Beecham2, Luz M. García-García2,3, Robert Thorpe2

1NIOZ Royal Netherlands Institute for Sea Research, Department of Coastal Systems, and Utrecht University, 1797 SZ, ‘t Horntje, Texel, The Netherlands
2Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science, Lowestoft NR33 0HT, UK
3Spanish Oceanographic Institute, 15001 Coruña (A), C, Spain
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: The Mediterranean Rhodes Gyre is a cyclonic gyre with high primary production due to local upwelling of nutrients and occasional deep overturning up to 1 km depth. This nutrient-rich state is in sharp contrast to other parts of the Eastern Mediterranean which are oligotrophic. Here we investigated the upwelling system central to the Rhodes Gyre and the impact of different stressors like meteorological changes, acidification and fishing pressure up to the year 2100. A water column model spanning the physical, chemical and biological system up to top predators (GOTM-ERSEM-BFM-EwE) was used to simulate the pelagic environment under single and combined stressors. Results show that due to increasing winter temperatures, deep overturning events will become more rare in the future until they stop occurring around 2060 under the Paris-agreement climate scenario (RCP4.5) or around 2040 under the business-as-usual climate scenario (RCP8.5). Stratification will become stronger as temperature effects outweigh salinity effects in the surface mixed layer. Together with the lack of deep overturning, this stronger stratification limits the nutrient supply to the euphotic zone, significantly reducing primary production. Phytoplankton species shift towards smaller species as nutrients become more scarce, mimicking the situation found currently on the edge of the gyre. Climatic changes and fishing pressure will affect higher trophic levels in an additive way for some species (sardines, dolphins), while in a synergistic way for others (anchovy, mackerel). Acidification impacts are negligible. Fish stocks will reduce significantly under all scenarios involving climate change effects: ~30% under scenarios imposing RCP4.5 and ~40% under scenarios imposing RCP8.5. The beneficial impact of maximum sustained yield-level fishing is very limited, indicating a need for mitigating measures beyond fleet control.

KEY WORDS: Rhodes Gyre · Ecosystem modelling · Climate change · Fishing pressure · European Regional Seas Ecosystem Model · ERSEM · Ecopath with Ecosim

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Cite this article as: van Leeuwen SM, Beecham JA, García-García LM, Thorpe R (2022) The Mediterranean Rhodes Gyre: modelled impacts of climate change, acidification and fishing. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 690:31-50.

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