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Consequences of Mediterranean warming events in seagrass (Posidonia oceanica) flowering records

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Posidonia oceanica, a seagrass endemic to the Mediterranean forms extended and extremely persistent meadows. It is a clonal plant with an apparently irregular pattern of flowering events. An extensive bibliographic review allowed the reconstruction of past flowering events of this species around the Mediterranean, with a high degree of confidence for the last 30 years. The data series on annual flowering prevalence (FP, flowering records per total records) and flowering intensity (FI, fraction of flowering shoots) produced have been compared with four series on Sea Surface annual Temperature maxima (SSTmax) obtained for the NW Mediterranean (averaged from the local data series of l'Estartit and Villefranche: 1957–2005) and for the Eastern, Western basin and the whole Mediterranean sea (extracted from NCEP Reynolds interpolated SST maps: 1982–2005). Significant warming trends are detected in the Mediterranean SSTmax series, at a rate of (mean+SE) 0.04±0.01°C yr−1 (R2=0.24, P<0.01, N=24 years), in the Eastern basin series (0.06±0.01°C yr−1, R2=0.43, P<0.001, N=24 years) and in the long SSTmax series of the NW Mediterranean (0.02±0.01 C yr−1, R2=0.12, P<0.02, N=49 years). The magnitudes of the SSTmax anomalies around the absolute warming trend do not increase with time in any SSTmax series. Peaks of FP and FI in the Mediterranean seem to occur each 9–11 years, and coincide with peaks of annual SSTmax. Annual FP and FI increase with the residuals of annual SSTmax warming trend in all Mediterranean basins (FPMED: R2=0.27, P<0.01, N=23; FPNW: R2=0.34, P<0.01, N=31; FPE: R2=0.20; P<0.10, N=23). An outstanding event of P. oceanica flowering across the Mediterranean has been registered in Autumn 2003; 1 month after the highest annual SSTmax recorded in the series. The hypothesis of flowering induction by thermal stress as the possible cause of this relationship is discussed, as well as the potential use of P. oceanica flowering record as early indicator of biological change induced by global sea warming in Mediterranean marine ecosystems.
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Keywords: Mediterranean; Posidonia oceanica; angiosperms; biological footprints; climate change; flowering; life history; sea warming; sea-surface temperature; seagrass

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: IMEDEA (CSIC-UIB), Grupo de Oceanografía Interdisciplinar, C/Miquel Marqués no 21, 07190 Esporles, Spain

Publication date: 2007-01-01

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