The shifting distribution of Mediterranean fishes: a spatio-temporal assessment based on Local Ecological Knowledge
A major problem worldwide is the rapid change in species abundance and distribution, which is rapidly restructuring the biological communities of many ecosystems under changing climates. Tracking these transformations in the marine environment is crucial but our understanding is often hampered by the absence of historical data and by the practical challenge of survey large geographical areas. Here we focus on the Mediterranean Sea, a region which is warming faster than the rest of the global ocean, tracing back the spatio-temporal dynamic of species, which are emerging the most in terms of increasing abundances and expanding distributions. To this aim, we accessed the Local Ecological Knowledge (LEK) of small-scale and recreational fishers reconstructing the dynamics of fish perceived as ‘new’ or increasing in different fishing area. Over 500 fishers across 95 locations and 9 different countries were interviewed and semi-quantitative information on yearly changes in species abundance was collected. Overall, 75 species were mentioned by the respondents, being the most frequent citations related to warm-adapted species of both, native and exotic origin. Respondents belonging to the same biogeographic sectors described coherent spatio-temporal dynamics, and gradients along latitudinal and longitudinal axes were revealed. This information provides a more complete understanding of recent bio-geographical changes in the Mediterranean Sea and it also demonstrates that adequately structured LEK methodology might be applied successfully beyond the local scale, across national borders and jurisdictions. Acknowledging this potential through macro-regional coordination, could pave the ground for future large-scale aggregations of individual observations, increasing our potential for integrated monitoring and conservation planning at the regional or even global level.