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Pelagia noctiluca in the Mediterranean Sea

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Jellyfish Blooms

Abstract

Over recent decades, man’s expanding influence on the oceans has begun to cause change in some regions, including in the Mediterranean Sea. New proliferations of jellyfish may be occurring in the Mediterranean Sea, possibly in response to the cumulative effects of some of these anthropogenic impacts. In the Mediterranean Sea, many of these “proliferation events” are due to Pelagia noctiluca, an oceanic scyphozoan that has become very abundant along the coasts. Pelagia noctiluca is usually considered to be the most important jellyfish species in the Mediterranean Sea due to its widespread distribution, abundance, and ecological role and also because of its negative interaction with humans. Climatic conditions that favor enhanced reproduction by P. noctiluca and probably also determine optimal conditions for the formation of blooms are characterized by mild winters, low rainfall, high temperature, and high-atmospheric pressure. The Medusa Project in Catalonia aims to understand the spatiotemporal dynamics of the jellyfish populations in the NW Mediterranean Sea by undertaking daily sampling during summer (May to September) of 243 beaches, covering more than 500 km of coast. Data on beach strandings along the Spanish Catalan coast revealed that jellyfish occur in greatest concentrations along the northern Catalan coast and on beaches located close to marine canyons. The arrival of P. noctiluca to the coast depends firstly on the offshore production of jellyfish. Oceanographic structures like fronts, which enhance and maintain high levels of biological production and provide ideal conditions for feeding, growth, and reproduction of the jellyfish are present in the NW Mediterranean. The weakening of the front results in large numbers of P. noctiluca being driven into the coast by southeast winds. In the NW Mediterranean Sea P. noctiluca exert top-down control over a variety of prey including fish eggs and possibly the invasive ctenophore Mnemiopsis leidyi. P. noctiluca is also responsible for the majority of the stings incurred by bathers along the Catalan coast. Finally, we recommend that similar sampling programs should be done elsewhere to better understand changes in the distribution, abundance, and blooming patterns of dangerous jellyfish species.

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Acknowledgments

A. Canepa was funded by CONICYT (PFCHA/Doctorado al Extranjero 4ª Convocatoria, 72120016). The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Community’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7/2007–2013) under Grant Agreements n° 266445 for the project “Vectors of Change in Oceans and Seas Marine Life, Impact on Economic Sectors (VECTORS),” n° 287844 for the project “Towards COast to COast NETworks of marine protected areas (from the shore to the high and deep sea), coupled with sea-based wind energy potential” (CoCoNET), and n° 287600 for the project “Policy-oriented marine Environmental Research for the Southern European Seas (PERSEUS)” and from the ENPI CBC MED program under Grant Agreement n° I-A/1.3/098 for the project “Integrated monitoring of jellyfish outbreaks under anthropogenic and climatic impacts in the Mediterranean Sea (coastal zones): trophic and socio-economic risks (MED-JELLYRISK).” A. Sabatés thanks Fishjelly project MAR-CTM2010-18874. Special thanks go to Jennifer Purcell for reviewing the manuscript and for her valuable comments on it.

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Canepa, A., Fuentes, V., Sabatés, A., Piraino, S., Boero, F., Gili, JM. (2014). Pelagia noctiluca in the Mediterranean Sea. In: Pitt, K., Lucas, C. (eds) Jellyfish Blooms. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-7015-7_11

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