Marine heatwaves drive recurrent mass mortalities in the Mediterranean Sea

Joaquim Garrabou, Daniel Gómez-Gras, Alba Medrano, Carlo Cerrano, Massimo Ponti, Robert Schlegel, Nathaniel Bensoussan, Eva Turicchia, Maria Sini, Vasilis Gerovasileiou, Nuria Teixido, Alice Mirasole, Laura Tamburello, Emma Cebrian, Gil Rilov, Jean Baptiste Ledoux, Jamila Ben Souissi, Faten Khamassi, Raouia Ghanem, Mouloud BenabdiSamir Grimes, Oscar Ocaña, Hocein Bazairi, Bernat Hereu, Cristina Linares, Diego Kurt Kersting, Graciel la Rovira, Júlia Ortega, David Casals, Marta Pagès-Escolà, Núria Margarit, Pol Capdevila, Jana Verdura, Alfonso Ramos, Andres Izquierdo, Carmen Barbera, Esther Rubio-Portillo, Irene Anton, Paula López-Sendino, David Díaz, Maite Vázquez-Luis, Carlos Duarte, Nuria Marbà, Eneko Aspillaga, Free Espinosa, Daniele Grech, Ivan Guala, Ernesto Azzurro, Simone Farina, Maria Cristina Gambi, Giovanni Chimienti, Monica Montefalcone, Annalisa Azzola, Torcuato Pulido Mantas, Simonetta Fraschetti, Giulia Ceccherelli, Silvija Kipson, Tatjana Bakran-Petricioli, Donat Petricioli, Carlos Jimenez, Stelios Katsanevakis, Inci Tuney Kizilkaya, Zafer Kizilkaya, Stephane Sartoretto, Rouanet Elodie, Sandrine Ruitton, Steeve Comeau, Jean Pierre Gattuso, Jean Georges Harmelin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Climate change is causing an increase in the frequency and intensity of marine heatwaves (MHWs) and mass mortality events (MMEs) of marine organisms are one of their main ecological impacts. Here, we show that during the 2015–2019 period, the Mediterranean Sea has experienced exceptional thermal conditions resulting in the onset of five consecutive years of widespread MMEs across the basin. These MMEs affected thousands of kilometers of coastline from the surface to 45 m, across a range of marine habitats and taxa (50 taxa across 8 phyla). Significant relationships were found between the incidence of MMEs and the heat exposure associated with MHWs observed both at the surface and across depths. Our findings reveal that the Mediterranean Sea is experiencing an acceleration of the ecological impacts of MHWs which poses an unprecedented threat to its ecosystems' health and functioning. Overall, we show that increasing the resolution of empirical observation is critical to enhancing our ability to more effectively understand and manage the consequences of climate change.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)5708-5725
Number of pages18
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number19
StatePublished - Oct 2022
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 The Authors. Global Change Biology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd.


  • climate change
  • coralligenous habitats
  • foundation species
  • habitat-forming species
  • impact assessment
  • marine conservation
  • marine heatwaves
  • temperate reefs

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Global and Planetary Change
  • Ecology
  • Environmental Chemistry


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