Patterns of change in the seas

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Patterns of change for selected habitats, functional groups and species in European marine ecosystems
Biodiversity groupRegionPatterns of changeMost important
pressures[1]
Seabed habitats
Coastal habitats European regional seas Many European countries have estimated losses of coastal wetlands and seagrass beds of >50 % the historical area[2]. Physical damage, physical loss and biological disturbance (i.e. non-indigenous species)
Posidonia beds Mediterranean Sea The rate of decline of Posidonia oceanica seagrass meadows in the Mediterranean Sea is currently 5 % per year[3]. Physical damage, physical loss and biological disturbance (i.e. non-indigenous species)
Cymodocea meadows North East Atlantic Ocean Estimated declines between 15 % and 80 % of its former natural distribution at the Gulf of Cadiz, Spain and in Portugal[4]. Physical damage, physical loss and biological disturbance (i.e. non-indigenous species)
Zostera marina Baltic Sea In the 1990s, the coverage of Zostera marina in Limfjorden was between 20 % and 25 % of the coverage in 1900[5]. This decline has continued in the period 1989-2009 but, from 2009 to 2011, the ‘maximum depth limit’ (its outmost reaching distance from shore) appears to have improved by 28 %[6]. Physical damage, physical loss and biological disturbance (i.e. non-indigenous species)
Natura 2000 habitats European regional seas 7 % of assessments reported were in favourable conservation status for 2001-2006. This had changed to 9 % for 2007-2012. Physical damage, physical loss and biological disturbance (i.e. non-indigenous species)
Water column habitats
Calanus finmarchicus North East Atlantic Ocean Modelling studies show movement of C. finmarchicus towards the North pole of at least 16 km per decade (due to climate change).[7] Physical loss, biological disturbance and nutrient and organic matter enrichment
Mnemiopsis leidyi Black Sea Pollution and overfishing facilitated the invasion of the alien combjelly Mnemiopsis leidyi and its significant impact on the Black sea and Sea of Azov ecosystems in the late 1980s, which lead to fisheries collapse. But its predation by another alien combjelly species, Beroe ovata, which arrived in 1999, has meant that the Black Sea ecosystem shows signs of recovery.[8][9] Physical loss, biological disturbance and nutrient and organic matter enrichment
Marine invertebrates
Invertebrate communities Eastern North Sea The average number of species per sample on 22 offshore stations in the Kattegat fell from 14 to 9.5 (32 %) in the period 1994 to 2011. The number of individuals per m2 changed from app. 2500 to app. 1100 in the same period[10]. Physical loss, biological disturbance and interference with hydrological processes
Flat oyster North Sea Significant declines observed in 20th century. UK landings fell from 40 million in 1920 to 3 million in the 1960s. The northern 'cold water' population is now extinct[11]. Physical loss, biological disturbance and interference with hydrological processes
Ocean quahog North East Atlantic Ocean Significant declines in both distribution and abundance have been observed in the North Sea over the past century[12]. Physical loss, biological disturbance and interference with hydrological processes
Marine fish
Sharks Mediterranean Sea Hammerhead, Blue, Mackerel and Thresher shark populations declined between 96 % and 99.99 % relative to their former abundance[13]. Physical loss and biological disturbance (i.e. selective extraction of species)
Angel shark

North East Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea

The Angel shark has been declared extinct in the North Sea and apparently also from large areas of the northern Mediterranean. It is now uncommon throughout most of the remainder of its range, with the possible exception of some areas of the Southern Mediterranean and the Canary Islands[14]. Physical loss and biological disturbance (i.e. selective extraction of species)
European sturgeon European regional seas Once widely distributed in European waters, the European sturgeon is now restricted to the Garonne River, in France[15]. Physical loss and biological disturbance (i.e. selective extraction of species)
European eel North East Atlantic Ocean A decline in Glass eels arriving at the European coast has been observed during the last 25 years, where only 1-5 % of the former numbers of recruits arrive in Europe today[16]. Physical loss and biological disturbance (i.e. selective extraction of species)
Marine reptiles
Green turtle Mediterranean Sea In Turkey, declines of Green turtle greater than 80 % have been shown in the annual size of the nesting female subpopulation[17]. Biological and other physical disturbance
Marine birds
Great auk North East Atlantic Ocean The Great Auk occurred across the North Atlantic but was driven to extinction by hunting in the 1850s. [18] Physical loss, biological disturbance and contamination by hazardous substances
Black-legged kittiwake North East Atlantic Ocean (UK) The UK index of Kittiwake abundance has declined rapidly since the early 1990s, such as that by 2012 it was just 38 % of the 1986 figure representing the lowest value in 27 years of monitoring.[19] Physical loss, biological disturbance and contamination by hazardous substances
Canarian Black Oystercatcher North East Atlantic Ocean (Canary Islands) Canarian Black Oystercatcher was endemic to the Canary Islands and was reported to have become extinct by the 1940s. Its decline was probably a result of overharvesting of intertidal invertebrates and disturbance by people, although predation by rats and cats has also been implicated.[20] Physical loss, biological disturbance and contamination by hazardous substances
Marine mammals
Grey whale North East Atlantic Ocean The Grey whale used to live in the North Atlantic, but was extinct by the early 1700s.[21] Biological disturbance, other physical disturbance and contamination by hazardous substances
Mediterranean monk seal Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea The Mediterranean Monk seal has an estimated total population size of 350-450 animals. It is considered to be extinct from the Black Sea and is no longer found across much of its previous range in the Mediterranean Sea and North Atlantic.[22] Biological disturbance, other physical disturbance and contamination by hazardous substances
Ringed seal Baltic Sea In the early 20th century, the Ringed seal population of the Baltic Sea was estimated at 180 000. Today, there are only 7 000-10 000 animals left.[23] Biological disturbance, other physical disturbance and contamination by hazardous substances
Ecosystems and regime shifts
Food webs Baltic Sea and Black Sea Major regime shifts in fish communities and their associated food webs have occurred in the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea over the last century due mainly to climate change and overfishing[24]. Regime shifts in European regional seas are likely linked as part of a change in the seas of the Northern hemisphere[25]. Not reported under MSFD

References

[1] As reported by Member States under the MSFD Initial Assessment. ETC ICM 2013 (unpublished). ETC/ICM MSFD Initial Assessment Summary report

[2] Airoldi, L. and Beck, M.W. (2007), ‘Loss, status and trends for coastal marine habitats of Europe’,Oceanography and Marine Biology, An Annual Review, (45).

[3] Duarte, C. M., Nixon, S., Fulweiler, R.W., Dennison, W. B., Valiela, I., Hughes, T. and Bordalba, N.M. (2009), Global loss of coastal habitats: Rates, causes and consequences, Fundación BBVA, Bilbao.

[4] OSPAR (2008), Case Reports for the OSPAR List of Threatened and/or Declining Species and Habitats, The Convention for the Protection of the marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, London, accessed 08 June 2014.

[5] Ærtebjerg, G., Andersen, J.H. and Hansen, O.S. (Eds) (2003), Nutrients and Eutrophication in Danish Marine Waters — a Challenge for Science and Management, National Environmental Research Institute, Copenhagen.

[6] Hansen, J.W. (red.) (2012), Marine områder 2011, DCE – Nationalt Center for Miljø og Energi, Aarhus Universitet, Roskilde, accessed 16 June 2014.

[7] ICES (2014), Report of the Workshop to draft recommendations for the assessment of Descriptor D3 (WKD3R), International Council for the Exploration of the Sea, Copenhagen.

[8] Finenko, G. A. (2003), 'Population dynamics, ingestion, growth and reproduction rates of the invader Beroe ovata and its impact on plankton community in Sevastopol Bay, the Black Sea',Journal of Plankton Research, 25(5) 539–549.

[9] Shiganova, T., Mirzoyan, Z., Studenikina, E., Volovik, S., Siokou-Frangou, I., Zervoudaki, S., Christou, E., Skirta, A. and Dumont, H. (2001), 'Population development of the invader ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi , in the Black Sea and in other seas of the Mediterranean basin',Marine Biology, 139(3) 431–445.

[10] Hansen, J.W. (red.) (2012), Marine områder 2011, DCE – Nationalt Center for Miljø og Energi, Aarhus Universitet, Roskilde, accessed 16 June 2014.

[11] OSPAR (2008), Case Reports for the OSPAR List of Threatened and/or Declining Species and Habitats, The Convention for the Protection of the marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, London, accessed 08 June 2014.

[12] OSPAR (2008), Case Reports for the OSPAR List of Threatened and/or Declining Species and Habitats, The Convention for the Protection of the marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, London, accessed 08 June 2014.

[13] Ferretti, F., Myers, R. A., Serana, F. and Lotze, H. K. (2008), Loss of Large Predatory Sharks from the Mediterranean Sea,Conservation Biology, (22) 952–964.

[14] Morey, G., Serena, F., Mancusi, C., Fowler, S.L., Dipper, F. and Ellis, J. (2006), Squatina squatina, in: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, accessed 08 June 2014.

[15] Gesner, J., Williot, P., Rochard, E., Freyhof, J. & Kottelat, M., 2010, Acipenser sturio, in: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, accessed 08 June 2014.

[16] OSPAR (2008), Case Reports for the OSPAR List of Threatened and/or Declining Species and Habitats, The Convention for the Protection of the marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic, London, accessed 24 June 2014 .

[17] Seminoff, J.A. (2004), Chelonia mydas, in: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and 2004 GLOBAL STATUS ASSESSMENT, accessed 08 June 2014.

[18] BirdLife International (2012), Pinguinus impennis, in: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, accessed 08 June 2014.

[19] JNCC (2013), Seabird Population Trends and Causes of Change: 1986-2012 Report, Joint Nature Conservation Committee, Peterborough, accessed 08 June 2014.

[20] BirdLife International (2012), Haematopus meadewaldoi, in: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, accessed 08 June 2014.

[21] Temple, H.J. and Terry, A. (Compilers) (2007), The Status and Distribution of European Mammals, Office for Official Publications of the European Communities, Luxembourg.

[22] Aguilar, A. and Lowry, L. (2013), Monachus monachus, in: IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, accessed 08 June 2014.

[23] HELCOM (2013), HELCOM Red List of Baltic Sea species in danger of becoming extinct,Baltic Sea Environmental Proceedings No. 140, Helsinki Commission, Helsinki.

[24] Möllmann, C., Casini, M., Daskalov, G. M. and De Young, B. (2011), Regime shifts in marine ecosystems: How overfishing can provoke sudden ecosystem changes, Report for the European Parliament's Committee on Fisheries, Brussels.

[25] Conversi, A., Fonda Umani, S., Peluso, T., Molinero, J. C., Santojanni, A. and Edwards, M. (2010), 'The Mediterranean Sea Regime Shift at the End of the 1980s, and Intriguing Parallelisms with Other European Basins 'Humphries, S. (ed)', PLoS ONE,5(5) 10633.

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