"Mediterranean" redirects here.
For other uses, see Mediterranean (disambiguation).
|Location||Western Europe, Southern Europe, North Africa and Western Asia|
|Primary inflows||Atlantic Ocean, Sea of Marmara, Nile, Ebro, Rhône, Chelif, Po|
|Basin countries||about 60|
|Surface area||2,500,000 km (970,000 sq mi)|
|Average depth||1,500 m (4,900 ft)|
|Max. depth||5,267 m (17,280 ft)|
|Water volume||3,750,000 km (900,000 cu mi)|
|Residence time||80–100 years|
|Settlements||Alexandria, Barcelona, Algiers, Izmir, Rome, Athens, Beirut, Tripoli, Tunis, Tangier, Tel Aviv-Yafo, Split, (full list)|
The Mediterranean Sea is a sea connected to the Atlantic Ocean, surrounded by the Mediterranean Basin and almost completely enclosed by land: on the north by Western and Southern Europe and Anatolia, on the south by North Africa, and on the east by the Levant.
Although the sea is sometimes considered a part of the Atlantic Ocean, it is usually referred to as a separate body of water.
Geological evidence indicates that around 5.9 million years ago, the Mediterranean was cut off from the Atlantic and was partly or completely desiccated over a period of some 600,000 years during the Messinian salinity crisis before being refilled by the Zanclean flood about 5.3 million years ago.
It covers an area of about 2,500,000 km (970,000 sq mi), representing 0.7% of the global ocean surface, but its connection to the Atlantic via the Strait of Gibraltar—the narrow strait that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Spain in Europe from Morocco in Africa—is only 14 km (9 mi) wide.
Its west–east length, from the Strait of Gibraltar to the Gulf of Iskenderun, on the southeastern coast of Turkey, is about 4,000 kilometres (2,500 mi).
The sea was an important route for merchants and travelers of ancient times, facilitating trade and cultural exchange between peoples of the region.
The history of the Mediterranean region is crucial to understanding the origins and development of many modern societies.
The Roman Empire maintained nautical hegemony over the sea for centuries.
The countries surrounding the Mediterranean in clockwise order are Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco; Malta and Cyprus are island countries in the sea.
Names and etymology
The Ancient Egyptians called the Mediterranean Wadj-wr/Wadj-Wer/Wadj-Ur.
The Ancient Greeks called the Mediterranean simply ἡ θάλασσα (hē thálassa; "the Sea") or sometimes ἡ μεγάλη θάλασσα (hē megálē thálassa; "the Great Sea"), ἡ ἡμέτερα θάλασσα (hē hēmétera thálassa; "Our Sea"), or ἡ θάλασσα ἡ καθ'ἡμᾶς (hē thálassa hē kath’hēmâs; "the sea around us").
It means 'in the middle of land, inland' in Latin, a compound of medius ("middle"), terra ("land, earth"), and -āneus ("having the nature of").
The Latin word is a calque of Greek μεσόγειος (mesógeios; "inland"), from μέσος (mésos, "in the middle") and γήινος (gḗinos, "of the earth"), from γῆ (gê, "land, earth").
The original meaning may have been 'the sea in the middle of the earth', rather than 'the sea enclosed by land'.
The Carthaginians called it the "Syrian Sea".
However, it has also been called the "Hinder Sea" because of its location on the west coast of Greater Syria or the Holy Land (and therefore behind a person facing the east), which is sometimes translated as "Western Sea".
In Modern Hebrew, it is called HaYam HaTikhon 'the Middle Sea'.
In Classic Persian texts was called Daryāy-e Šām (دریای شام) "The Western Sea" or "Syrian Sea".
In Modern Arabic, it is known as al-Baḥr [al-Abyaḍ] al-Mutawassiṭ (البحر [الأبيض] المتوسط) 'the [White] Middle Sea'.
In Islamic and older Arabic literature, it was Baḥr al-Rūm(ī) (بحر الروم or بحر الرومي}) 'the Sea of the Romans' or 'the Roman Sea'.
At first, that name referred to only the Eastern Mediterranean, but it was later extended to the whole Mediterranean.
Other Arabic names were Baḥr al-šām(ī) (بحر الشام) ("the Sea of Syria") and Baḥr al-Maghrib (بحرالمغرب) ("the Sea of the West").
The origin of the name is not clear, as it is not known in earlier Greek, Byzantine or Islamic sources.
It may be to contrast with the Black Sea.
In Persian, the name was translated as Baḥr-i Safīd, which was also used in later Ottoman Turkish.
It is probably the origin of the colloquial Greek phrase Άσπρη Θάλασσα (Άspri Thálassa, lit.
Johann Knobloch claims that in classical antiquity, cultures in the Levant used colours to refer to the cardinal points: black referred to the north (explaining the name Black Sea), yellow or blue to east, red to south (e.g., the Red Sea), and white to west.
This would explain the Greek Άspri Thálassa, the Bulgarian Byalo More, the Turkish Akdeniz, and the Arab nomenclature described above, lit.
Main article: History of the Mediterranean region
Several ancient civilizations were located around the Mediterranean shores and were greatly influenced by their proximity to the sea.
It provided routes for trade, colonization, and war, as well as food (from fishing and the gathering of other seafood) for numerous communities throughout the ages.
Due to the shared climate, geology, and access to the sea, cultures centered on the Mediterranean tended to have some extent of intertwined culture and history.
For the next 400 years, the Roman Empire completely controlled the Mediterranean Sea and virtually all its coastal regions from Gibraltar to the Levant.
Darius's canal was wide enough for two triremes to pass each other with oars extended, and required four days to traverse.
1.5 tons of copper ingots found in the ship was used to estimate its age.
It has been confirmed that the shipwreck, dating back to 1600 BC, is older than the "Uluburun Shipwreck" dating back to 1400 BC.
Middle Ages and empires
The Western Roman Empire collapsed around 476 AD.
Another power arose in the 7th century, and with it the religion of Islam, which soon swept across from the east; at its greatest extent, the Arab Empire controlled 75% of the Mediterranean region and left a lasting footprint on its eastern and southern shores.
The Arab invasions disrupted the trade relations between Western and Eastern Europe while disrupting trade routes with Eastern Asian Empires.
This, however, had the indirect effect of promoting the trade across the Caspian Sea.
The Viking raids further disrupted the trade in western Europe and brought it to a halt.
The Byzantines in the mid-8th century retook control of the area around the north-eastern part of the Mediterranean.
Venetian ships from the 9th century armed themselves to counter the harassment by Arabs while concentrating trade of Asian goods in Venice.
A document dated 996 mentions Amalfian merchants living in Cairo.
Another letter states that the Genoese had traded with Alexandria.
Genoa, Venica and Pisa created colonies in regions controlled by the Crusaders and came to control the trade with the Orient.
These colonies also allowed them to trade with the Eastern world.
Though the fall of the Crusader states and attempts at banning of trade relations with Muslim states by the Popes temporarily disrupted the trade with the Orient, it however continued.
Ottomans gained control of much of the sea in the 16th century and maintained naval bases in southern France (1543–1544), Algeria and Tunisia.
The Battle of Djerba (1560) marked the apex of Ottoman naval domination in the Mediterranean.
This was the last naval battle to be fought primarily between galleys.
According to Robert Davis, from the 16th to 19th centuries, pirates captured 1 million to 1.25 million Europeans as slaves.
The development of oceanic shipping began to affect the entire Mediterranean.
Once, most trade between Western Europe and the East had passed through the region, but after the 1490s the development of a sea route to the Indian Ocean allowed the importation of Asian spices and other goods through the Atlantic ports of western Europe.
The sea remained strategically important.
British mastery of Gibraltar ensured their influence in Africa and Southwest Asia.
21st century and migrations
In 2013, the Maltese president described the Mediterranean Sea as a "cemetery" due to the large number of migrants who drowned there after their boats capsized.
European Parliament president Martin Schulz said in 2014 that Europe's migration policy "turned the Mediterranean into a graveyard", referring to the number of drowned refugees in the region as a direct result of the policies.
An Azerbaijani official described the sea as "a burial ground ... where people die".
Following the 2013 Lampedusa migrant shipwreck, the Italian government decided to strengthen the national system for the patrolling of the Mediterranean Sea by authorising "Operation Mare Nostrum", a military and humanitarian mission in order to rescue the migrants and arrest the traffickers of immigrants.
In 2015, more than one million migrants crossed the Mediterranean Sea into Europe.
Italy was particularly affected by the European migrant crisis.
Since 2013, over 700,000 migrants have landed in Italy, mainly sub-Saharan Africans.
The Mediterranean Sea connects:
- to the Atlantic Ocean by the Strait of Gibraltar (known in Homer's writings as the "Pillars of Hercules") in the west
- to the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea, by the Straits of the Dardanelles and the Bosporus respectively, in the east
Large islands in the Mediterranean include:
- Cyprus, Crete, Euboea, Rhodes, Lesbos, Chios, Kefalonia, Corfu, Limnos, Samos, Naxos, and Andros in the Eastern Mediterranean
- Sicily, Cres, Krk, Brač, Hvar, Pag, Korčula, and Malta in the central Mediterranean
- Sardinia, Corsica, and the Balearic Islands: Ibiza, Majorca, and Menorca in the Western Mediterranean
The Alpine arc, which also has a great meteorological impact on the Mediterranean area, touches the Mediterranean in the west in the area around Nice and in the east in the area around Trieste towards Duino and Barcola.
The typical Mediterranean climate has hot, humid, and dry summers and mild, rainy winters.
The Mediterranean Sea includes 12 marginal seas:
|Number||Sea||Area (Km)||Marginal Countries|
|1||Libyan Sea||350,000||Libya, Greece, Malta, Italy|
|2||Levantine Sea||320,000||Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Egypt, Greece, Cyprus, United Kingdom|
|3||Tyrrhenian Sea||275,000||Italy, France|
|4||Aegean Sea||214,000||Turkey, Greece|
|5||Ionian Sea||169,000||Greece, Albania, Italy|
|6||Balearic Sea||150,000||France, Spain|
|7||Adriatic Sea||138,000||Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy, Montenegro, Slovenia|
|8||Sea of Sardinia||120,000||Italy, Spain|
|9||Sea of Crete||95,000||Greece, Libya, Egypt|
|10||Ligurian Sea||80,000||Italy, France|
|11||Alboran Sea||53,000||Spain, Morocco, Algeria, United Kingdom|
|12||Sea of Marmara||11,500||Turkey|
|-||Other||500,000||Consist of Gulfs, Straits, Channels and other parts that don't have the name of a specific sea|
|Total||Mediterranean Sea||2,500,000||23 Countries|
- List of seas
- :Category:Marginal seas of the Mediterranean
- :Category:Gulfs of the Mediterranean
- :Category:Straits of the Mediterranean Sea
- :Category:Channels of the Mediterranean Sea
Note 1: The International Hydrographic Organization defines the area as generic Mediterranean Sea, in the Western Basin.
It does not recognize the label Sea of Sardinia.
Note 3: The Black Sea is not considered part of it.
The International Hydrographic Organization defines the limits of the Mediterranean Sea as follows: Stretching from the Strait of Gibraltar in the west to the entrances to the Dardanelles and the Suez Canal in the east, the Mediterranean Sea is bounded by the coasts of Europe, Africa, and Asia and is divided into two deep basins:
- Western Basin:
- On the west: A line joining the extremities of Cape Trafalgar (Spain) and Cape Spartel (Africa)
- On the northeast: The west coast of Italy. In the Strait of Messina, a line joining the north extreme of Cape Paci (15°42′E) with Cape Peloro, the east extreme of the Island of Sicily. The north coast of Sicily
- On the east: A line joining Cape Lilibeo the western point of Sicily (), through the Adventure Bank to Cape Bon (Tunisia)
- Eastern Basin:
For a more comprehensive list, see List of Mediterranean countries.
The following countries have a coastline on the Mediterranean Sea:
- Northern shore (from west to east): Spain, France, Monaco, Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, Albania, Greece, Turkey.
- Eastern shore (from north to south): Turkey, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine, Egypt.
- Southern shore (from west to east): Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt.
- Island nations: Malta, Cyprus.
Several other territories also border the Mediterranean Sea (from west to east):
- the British overseas territory of Gibraltar
- the Spanish autonomous cities of Ceuta and Melilla and nearby islands
- the Sovereign Base Areas on Cyprus
- the Palestinian Gaza Strip
Exclusive economic zone
Exclusive economic zones in Mediterranean Sea:
|22||Bosnia and Herzegovina||50|
|23||United Kingdom||Very low|
The Coastline length is about 46,000 km.
For a more comprehensive list, see List of coastal settlements of the Mediterranean Sea.
Major cities (municipalities), with populations larger than 200,000 people, bordering the Mediterranean Sea include:
|Algeria||Algiers, Annaba, Oran|
|Cyprus||Larnaca, Famagusta, Limassol, Paphos, Kyrenia, Rizokarpasso|
|Egypt||Alexandria, Damietta, Port Said|
|France||Marseille, Toulon, Nice|
|Greece||Athens, Patras, Thessaloniki, Volos, Heraklion|
|Israel||Ashdod, Haifa, Netanya, Rishon LeZion, Tel Aviv|
|Italy||Bari, Catania, Genoa, Messina, Naples, Palermo, Rome, Syracuse, Taranto, Trieste, Venice|
|Lebanon||Beirut, Tripoli, Sidon, Tyre|
|Libya||Benghazi, Khoms, Misrata, Tripoli, Zawiya, Zliten|
|Spain||Alicante, Badalona, Barcelona, Cartagena, Málaga, Palma, Valencia.|
|Tunisia||Sfax, Sousse, Tunis|
|Turkey||Adana, Antalya, Istanbul (through the Sea of Marmara), İzmir, Mersin, Iskenderun|
The International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) divides the Mediterranean into a number of smaller waterbodies, each with their own designation (from west to east):
- the Strait of Gibraltar
- the Alboran Sea, between Spain and Morocco
- the Balearic Sea, between mainland Spain and its Balearic Islands
- the Ligurian Sea between Corsica and Liguria (Italy)
- the Tyrrhenian Sea enclosed by Sardinia, Italian peninsula and Sicily
- the Ionian Sea between Italy, Albania and Greece
- the Adriatic Sea between Italy, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro and Albania
- the Aegean Sea between Greece and Turkey
Some other seas whose names have been in common use from the ancient times, or in the present:
- the Sea of Sardinia, between Sardinia and Balearic Islands, as a part of the Balearic Sea
- the Sea of Sicily between Sicily and Tunisia
- the Libyan Sea between Libya and Crete
- In the Aegean Sea,
- the Thracian Sea in its north
- the Myrtoan Sea between the Cyclades and the Peloponnese
- the Sea of Crete north of Crete
- the Icarian Sea between Kos and Chios
- the Cilician Sea between Turkey and Cyprus
- the Levantine Sea at the eastern end of the Mediterranean
Many of these smaller seas feature in local myth and folklore and derive their names from such associations.
In addition to the seas, a number of gulfs and straits are recognised:
- the Saint George Bay in Beirut, Lebanon
- the Ras Ibn Hani cape in Latakia, Syria
- the Ras al-Bassit cape in northern Syria.
- the Minet el-Beida ("White Harbour") bay near ancient Ugarit, Syria
- the Strait of Gibraltar, connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea and separates Spain from Morocco
- the Bay of Gibraltar, at the southern end of the Iberian Peninsula
- the Gulf of Corinth, an enclosed sea between the Ionian Sea and the Corinth Canal
- the Pagasetic Gulf, the gulf of Volos, south of the Thermaic Gulf, formed by the Mount Pelion peninsula
- the Saronic Gulf, the gulf of Athens, between the Corinth Canal and the Mirtoan Sea
- the Thermaic Gulf, the gulf of Thessaloniki, located in the northern Greek region of Macedonia
- the Kvarner Gulf, Croatia
- the Gulf of Lion, south of France
- the Gulf of Valencia, east of Spain
- the Strait of Messina, between Sicily and Calabrian peninsula
- the Gulf of Genoa, northwestern Italy
- the Gulf of Venice, northeastern Italy
- the Gulf of Trieste, northeastern Italy
- the Gulf of Taranto, southern Italy
- the Gulf of Saint Euphemia, southern Italy, with the international airport nearby
- the Gulf of Salerno, southwestern Italy
- the Gulf of Gaeta, southwestern Italy
- the Gulf of Squillace, southern Italy
- the Strait of Otranto, between Italy and Albania
- the Gulf of Haifa, northern Israel
- the Gulf of Sidra, between Tripolitania (western Libya) and Cyrenaica (eastern Libya)
- the Strait of Sicily, between Sicily and Tunisia
- the Corsica Channel, between Corsica and Italy
- the Strait of Bonifacio, between Sardinia and Corsica
- the Gulf of İskenderun, between İskenderun and Adana (Turkey)
- the Gulf of Antalya, between west and east shores of Antalya (Turkey)
- the Bay of Kotor, in south-western Montenegro and south-eastern Croatia
- the Malta Channel, between Sicily and Malta
- the Gozo Channel, between Malta Island and Gozo
Ten largest islands by area
Main article: List of islands in the Mediterranean
|Country||Island||Area in km||Population|
Much of the Mediterranean coast enjoys a hot-summer Mediterranean climate.
Although they are rare, tropical cyclones occasionally form in the Mediterranean Sea, typically in September–November.
Being nearly landlocked affects conditions in the Mediterranean Sea: for instance, tides are very limited as a result of the narrow connection with the Atlantic Ocean.
The Mediterranean is characterised and immediately recognised by its deep blue colour.
Evaporation is especially high in its eastern half, causing the water level to decrease and salinity to increase eastward.
The average salinity in the basin is 38 PSU at 5 m depth.
The temperature of the water in the deepest part of the Mediterranean Sea is 13.2 °C (55.8 °F).
The net water influx from the Atlantic Ocean is ca. 70,000 m³/s or 2.2×10 m/a (7.8×10 cu ft/a).
Without this Atlantic water, the sea level of the Mediterranean Sea would fall at a rate of about 1 m per year.
These cool and relatively low-salinity waters circulate eastwards along the North African coasts.
A part of these surface waters does not pass the Strait of Sicily, but deviates towards Corsica before exiting the Mediterranean.
The surface waters entering the eastern Mediterranean basin circulate along the Libyan and Israelian coasts.
Upon reaching the Levantine Sea, the surface waters having experienced warming and saltening from their initial Atlantic state, are now more dense and sink to form the Levantine Intermediate Waters (LIW).
Most of the water found anywhere between 50 and 600 m deep in the Mediterranean originates from the LIW.
LIW are formed along the coasts of Turkey and circulate westwards along the Greek and South Italian coasts.
LIW are the only waters passing the Sicily Strait westwards.
After the Strait of Sicily, the LIW waters circulate along the Italian, French and Spanish coasts before exiting the Mediterranean through the depths of the Strait of Gibraltar.
When new deep water is formed, the older waters mix with the overlaying intermediate waters and eventually exit the Mediterranean.
The residence time of water in the Mediterranean is approximately 100 years, making the Mediterranean especially sensitive to climate change.
Other events affecting water circulation
Being a semi-enclosed basin, the Mediterranean experiences transitory events that can affect the water circulation on short time scales.
In the mid 1990s, the Aegean Sea became the main area for deep water formation in the eastern Mediterranean after particularly cold winter conditions.
This transitory switch in the origin of deep waters in the eastern Mediterranean was termed Eastern Mediterranean Transient (EMT) and had major consequences on water circulation of the Mediterranean.
Another example of a transient event affecting the Mediterranean circulation is the periodic inversion of the North Ionian Gyre, which is an anticyclonic ocean gyre observed in the northern part of the Ionian Sea, off the Greek coast.
The transition from anticyclonic to cyclonic rotation of this gyre changes the origin of the waters fueling it; when the circulation is anticyclonic (most common), the waters of the gyre originate from the Adriatic Sea.
When the circulation is cyclonic, the waters originate from the Levantine Sea.
These waters have different physical and chemical characteristics, and the periodic inversion of the North Ionian Gyre (called Bimodal Oscillating System or BiOS) changes the Mediterranean circulation and biogeochemistry around the Adriatic and Levantine regions.
Because of the short residence time of waters, the Mediterranean Sea is considered a hot-spot for climate change effects.
Deep water temperatures have increased by 0.12 °C (0.22 °F) between 1959 and 1989.
According to climate projections, the Mediterranean Sea could become warmer.
The decrease in precipitation over the region could lead to more evaporation ultimately increasing the Mediterranean Sea salinity.
Because of the changes in temperature and salinity, the Mediterranean Sea may become more stratified by the end of the 21st century, with notable consequences on water circulation and biogeochemistry.
The Mediterranean Sea is commonly referred to as an LNLC (Low-Nutrient, Low-Chlorophyll) area.
The Mediterranean Sea fits the definition of a desert as it has low precipitation and its nutrient contents are low, making it difficult for plants and animals to develop.
There are steep gradients in nutrient concentrations, chlorophyll concentrations and primary productivity in the Mediterranean.
Nutrient concentrations in the western part of the basin are about double the concentrations in the eastern basin.
The Alboran Sea, close to the Strait of Gibraltar, has a daily primary productivity of about 0.25 g C (grams of carbon) m day whereas the eastern basin has an average daily productivity of 0.16 g C m day.
For this reason, the eastern part of the Mediterranean Sea is termed "ultraoligotrophic".
The productive areas of the Mediterranean Sea are few and small.
High (i.e. more than 0.5 grams of Chlorophyll a per cubic meter) productivity occurs in coastal areas, close to the river mouths which are the primary suppliers of dissolved nutrients.
Primary productivity in the Mediterranean is also marked by an intense seasonal variability.
However, in winter, light may be the limiting factor for primary productivity.
Between March and April, spring offers the ideal trade-off between light intensity and nutrient concentrations in surface for a spring bloom to occur.
In summer, high atmospheric temperatures lead to the warming of the surface waters.
The resulting density difference virtually isolates the surface waters from the rest of the water column and nutrient exchanges are limited.
As a consequence, primary productivity is very low between June and October.
Oceanographic expeditions uncovered a characteristic feature of the Mediterranean Sea biogeochemistry: most of the chlorophyll production does not occur on the surface, but in sub-surface waters between 80 and 200 meters deep.
Another key characteristic of the Mediterranean is its high nitrogen-to-phosphorus ratio (N:P).
Redfield demonstrated that most of the world's oceans have an average N:P ratio around 16.
However, the Mediterranean Sea has an average N:P between 24 and 29, which translates a widespread phosphorus limitation.
The geologic history of the Mediterranean Sea is complex.
Underlain by oceanic crust, the sea basin was once thought to be a tectonic remnant of the ancient Tethys Ocean; it is now known to be a structurally younger basin, called the Neotethys, which was first formed by the convergence of the African and Eurasian plates during the Late Triassic and Early Jurassic.
Because it is a near-landlocked body of water in a normally dry climate, the Mediterranean is subject to intensive evaporation and the precipitation of evaporites.
The Messinian salinity crisis started about six million years ago (mya) when the Mediterranean became landlocked, and then essentially dried up.
There are salt deposits accumulated on the bottom of the basin of more than a million cubic kilometres—in some places more than three kilometres thick.
Scientists estimate that the sea was last filled about 5.3 million years ago (mya) in less than two years by the Zanclean flood.
Water poured in from the Atlantic Ocean through a newly breached gateway now called the Strait of Gibraltar at an estimated rate of about three orders of magnitude (one thousand times) larger than the current flow of the Amazon River.
The coastline extends for 46,000 km (29,000 mi).
A shallow submarine ridge (the Strait of Sicily) between the island of Sicily and the coast of Tunisia divides the sea in two main subregions: the Western Mediterranean, with an area of about 850,000 km (330,000 mi); and the Eastern Mediterranean, of about 1.65 million km (640,000 mi).
Coastal areas have submarine karst springs or vruljas, which discharge pressurised groundwater into the water from below the surface; the discharge water is usually fresh, and sometimes may be thermal.
Tectonics and paleoenvironmental analysis
The region has a variety of geological hazards which have closely interacted with human activity and land use patterns.
Among others, in the eastern Mediterranean, the Thera eruption, dated to the 17th or 16th century BC, caused a large tsunami that some experts hypothesise devastated the Minoan civilisation on the nearby island of Crete, further leading some to believe that this may have been the catastrophe that inspired the Atlantis legend.
The region around Vesuvius including the Phlegraean Fields Caldera west of Naples are quite active and constitute the most densely populated volcanic region in the world where an eruptive event may occur within decades.
Vesuvius itself is regarded as quite dangerous due to a tendency towards explosive (Plinian) eruptions.
The large experience of member states and regional authorities has led to exchange on the international level with cooperation of NGOs, states, regional and municipality authorities and private persons.
The Greek–Turkish earthquake diplomacy is a quite positive example of natural hazards leading to improved relations between traditional rivals in the region after earthquakes in İzmir and Athens in 1999.
The European Union Solidarity Fund (EUSF) was set up to respond to major natural disasters and express European solidarity to disaster-stricken regions within all of Europe.
The largest amount of funding requests in the EU relates to forest fires, followed by floods and earthquakes.
Forest fires, whether man made or natural, are a frequent and dangerous hazard in the Mediterranean region.
Tsunamis are also an often underestimated hazard in the region.
For example, the 1908 Messina earthquake and tsunami took more than 123,000 lives in Sicily and Calabria and was among the most deadly natural disasters in modern Europe.
The Bitter Lakes, which are hyper-saline natural lakes that form part of the canal, blocked the migration of Red Sea species into the Mediterranean for many decades, but as the salinity of the lakes gradually equalised with that of the Red Sea, the barrier to migration was removed, and plants and animals from the Red Sea have begun to colonise the Eastern Mediterranean.
The Red Sea is generally saltier and more nutrient-poor than the Atlantic, so the Red Sea species have advantages over Atlantic species in the salty and nutrient-poor Eastern Mediterranean.
Accordingly, Red Sea species invade the Mediterranean biota, and not vice versa; this phenomenon is known as the Lessepsian migration (after Ferdinand de Lesseps, the French engineer) or Erythrean ("red") invasion.
The construction of the Aswan High Dam across the Nile River in the 1960s reduced the inflow of freshwater and nutrient-rich silt from the Nile into the Eastern Mediterranean, making conditions there even more like the Red Sea and worsening the impact of the invasive species.
Invasive species have become a major component of the Mediterranean ecosystem and have serious impacts on the Mediterranean ecology, endangering many local and endemic Mediterranean species.
A first look at some groups of exotic species shows that more than 70% of the non-indigenous decapods and about 63% of the exotic fishes occurring in the Mediterranean are of Indo-Pacific origin, introduced into the Mediterranean through the Suez Canal.
This makes the Canal the first pathway of arrival of alien species into the Mediterranean.
The impacts of some Lessepsian species have proven to be considerable, mainly in the Levantine basin of the Mediterranean, where they are replacing native species and becoming a familiar sight.
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature definition, as well as Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and Ramsar Convention terminologies, they are alien species, as they are non-native (non-indigenous) to the Mediterranean Sea, and they are outside their normal area of distribution which is the Indo-Pacific region.
When these species succeed in establishing populations in the Mediterranean Sea, compete with and begin to replace native species they are "Alien Invasive Species", as they are an agent of change and a threat to the native biodiversity.
In the context of CBD, "introduction" refers to the movement by human agency, indirect or direct, of an alien species outside of its natural range (past or present).
The Suez Canal, being an artificial (man made) canal, is a human agency.
Lessepsian migrants are therefore "introduced" species (indirect, and unintentional).
Whatever wording is chosen, they represent a threat to the native Mediterranean biodiversity, because they are non-indigenous to this sea.
In recent years, the Egyptian government's announcement of its intentions to deepen and widen the canal have raised concerns from marine biologists, fearing that such an act will only worsen the invasion of Red Sea species into the Mediterranean, and lead to even more species passing through the canal.
Arrival of new tropical Atlantic species
In recent decades, the arrival of exotic species from the tropical Atlantic has become noticeable.
Whether this reflects an expansion of the natural area of these species that now enter the Mediterranean through the Gibraltar strait, because of a warming trend of the water caused by global warming; or an extension of the maritime traffic; or is simply the result of a more intense scientific investigation, is still an open question.
While not as intense as the "Lessepsian" movement, the process may be of scientific interest and may therefore warrant increased levels of monitoring.
By 2100 the overall level of the Mediterranean could rise between 3 to 61 cm (1.2 to 24.0 in) as a result of the effects of climate change.
This could have adverse effects on populations across the Mediterranean:
- Rising sea levels will submerge parts of Malta. Rising sea levels will also mean rising salt water levels in Malta's groundwater supply and reduce the availability of drinking water.
- A 30 cm (12 in) rise in sea level would flood 200 square kilometres (77 sq mi) of the Nile Delta, displacing over 500,000 Egyptians.
- Cyprus wetlands are also in danger of being destroyed by the rising temperatures and sea levels.
These seas have only small and primarily east–west movement corridors, which may restrict northward displacement of organisms in these areas.
Sea level rise for the next century (2100) could be between 30 cm (12 in) and 100 cm (39 in) and temperature shifts of a mere 0.05–0.1 °C in the deep sea are sufficient to induce significant changes in species richness and functional diversity.
Pollution in this region has been extremely high in recent years.
The United Nations Environment Programme has estimated that 650,000,000 t (720,000,000 short tons) of sewage, 129,000 t (142,000 short tons) of mineral oil, 60,000 t (66,000 short tons) of mercury, 3,800 t (4,200 short tons) of lead and 36,000 t (40,000 short tons) of phosphates are dumped into the Mediterranean each year.
The Barcelona Convention aims to 'reduce pollution in the Mediterranean Sea and protect and improve the marine environment in the area, thereby contributing to its sustainable development.'
Many marine species have been almost wiped out because of the sea's pollution.
The Mediterranean is also plagued by marine debris.
Some of the world's busiest shipping routes are in the Mediterranean Sea.
These ships often carry hazardous cargo, which if lost would result in severe damage to the marine environment.
The discharge of chemical tank washings and oily wastes also represent a significant source of marine pollution.
The Mediterranean Sea constitutes 0.7% of the global water surface and yet receives 17% of global marine oil pollution.
It is estimated that every year between 100,000 t (98,000 long tons) and 150,000 t (150,000 long tons) of crude oil are deliberately released into the sea from shipping activities.
Approximately 370,000,000 t (360,000,000 long tons) of oil are transported annually in the Mediterranean Sea (more than 20% of the world total), with around 250–300 oil tankers crossing the sea every day.
Accidental oil spills happen frequently with an average of 10 spills per year.
A major oil spill could occur at any time in any part of the Mediterranean.
From the end of the 19th century, in particular, the beaches became places of longing for many Europeans and travelers.
From then on, and especially after World War II, mass tourism to the Mediterranean began with all its advantages and disadvantages.
While initially the journey was by train and later by bus or car, today the plane is increasingly used.
Tourism is today one of the most important sources of income for many Mediterranean countries, despite the man-made geopolitical conflicts in the region.
The countries have tried to extinguish rising man-made chaotic zones that might affect the region's economies and societies in neighboring coastal countries, and shipping routes.
Naval and rescue components in the Mediterranean Sea are considered to be among the best due to the rapid cooperation between various naval fleets.
Unlike the vast open oceans, the sea's closed position facilitates effective naval and rescue missions, considered the safest and regardless of any man-made or natural disaster.
Tourism is a source of income for small coastal communities, including islands, independent of urban centers.
Rapid development has been encouraged by Mediterranean governments to support the large numbers of tourists visiting the region; but this has caused serious disturbance to marine habitats by erosion and pollution in many places along the Mediterranean coasts.
Reductions in natural wealth may reduce the incentive for tourists to visit.
See also: Environmental impact of tourism
Main article: overfishing
Fish stock levels in the Mediterranean Sea are alarmingly low.
The European Environment Agency says that more than 65% of all fish stocks in the region are outside safe biological limits and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, that some of the most important fisheries—such as albacore and bluefin tuna, hake, marlin, swordfish, red mullet and sea bream—are threatened.
There are clear indications that catch size and quality have declined, often dramatically, and in many areas larger and longer-lived species have disappeared entirely from commercial catches.
Large open water fish like tuna have been a shared fisheries resource for thousands of years but the stocks are now dangerously low.
In 1999, Greenpeace published a report revealing that the amount of bluefin tuna in the Mediterranean had decreased by over 80% in the previous 20 years and government scientists warn that without immediate action the stock will collapse.
Credits to the contents of this page go to the authors of the corresponding Wikipedia page: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mediterranean Sea.