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New research has shown that sea warming and ocean acidification of the Mediterranean not only have an environmental impact but an economic one

Researchers from the Institute of Environmental Science and Technology (ICTA-UAB), have found that the sea warming and ocean acidification could have an economic cost for diving, in addition to its environmental costs. The study was conducted in the Marine Protected Area of Medes Islands (Catalonia, Spain), in the north-western Mediterranean, an biodiverse area popular with scuba divers.

The research quantifies the potential economic losses that could derive from the gradual disappearance of Coralligenous species and the proliferation of jellyfish. To calculate the potential losses associated with different warming and acidification scenarios, an environmental evaluation method known as a ‘choice experiment’ was devised, to elicit and analyse the preferences of a sample of 390 divers with regard to different diving experience.

Luís Camps Rodrigues, Jeroen van den Bergh and Sergio Rossi of ICTA-UA calculate that a 50% fall in the gorgonian population would lead to economic losses of around 17 Euros per dive, while in a more extreme case – local extinction of the species – there would be a loss of approximately 60 Euros per dive. The rise in numbers of stinging jellyfish was also seen to have a negative effect on divers' welfare, with a loss of 26 Euros per dive.

The economic costs described in this study are associated above all with a reduction in divers' welfare. However, they could also involve losses of income for tourist operators, a fall in financial support for protected areas if this is linked to fees paid for diving, and a fall in indirect income and employment in the local economy. The researchers claim that the economic effects could be even greater if we take into account the effects of global warming and ocean acidification on other Coralligenous species, such as calcifying algae and stony corals, and repercussions in the entire ecosystem.

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