Jellyfish of the Spanish Mediterranean coasteffects of environmental factors on their spatio-temporal dynamics and economic impacts

  1. Antonio Jesús Canepa Oneto
Supervised by:
  1. Josep Maria Gili Sardà Director
  2. Isabel Muñoz Gràcia Director
  3. Verónica Fuentes Director

Defence university: Universitat de Barcelona

Year of defence: 2014

  1. Joan Domènec Ros Chair
  2. Alenka Malej Secretary
  3. José Luis Acuña Fernández Committee member

Type: Thesis


During recent years, jellyfish blooms have become in a passionate issue among marine scientists with a series of studies and reviews. The main concern about this blooms are related with ecosystem and socio-economic impacts and lately with the possibility of a global increase in these blooms. Jellyfish populations are known to follow periodic fluctuations in occurrence, abundance (biomass), where some regions, like the Mediterranean Sea, appear to sustain a long-term increase. The Mediterranean Sea has been largely and historically affected with blooms of several jellyfish species. Among them Pelagia noctiluca is the most abundant and the most problematic jellyfish species in the Western Mediterranean. Nevertheless, little information about the environmental restriction on the spatio-temporal dynamics of jellyfish blooms is available. In order to address these needs, this thesis has been structured covering two geographical areas reflecting two different approaches to understanding jellyfish spatio-temporal dynamics, bloom formation, impacts and analytical procedures. The first part of the thesis (Papers 1-3) deals with the outbreaks of the cubozoan Carybdea marsupialis along the coast of Denia (Alicante), including innovative work to develop experimentally based tools and analyses to generate scientifically-based recommendations for stakeholders. The second part of this thesis was done on the northern Mediterranean Spanish coast (Catalan coast) (Papers 4-6). This work is mostly based on stranded jellyfish data collected by the MEDUSA project in association with the Catalan Water Agency (ACA). The general objective of the Thesis was to understand the spatio-temporal dynamics of the jellyfish along the Spanish Mediterranean coast and the economic impacts of their blooms. Along the coast of Denia (Alicante), the coastal box jellyfish Carybdea marsupialis has caused major concern due to its painful sting and high abundances since 2008.The effects of environmental variables on the local (~ tens of kilometres) abundance of the cubomedusae showed that sea surface temperature (SST) and salinity were the main environmental variables, followed by those related to primary and secondary production and local retention or transportation to the coast. This conclusion led to our management recommendation that, to reduce the blooms of C. marsupialis, crop fertilizers and sewage discharges should be reduced in highly populated or industrialized areas. Most importantly, high amounts of nutrients reaching the coast (by rivers or ground water discharges) should be prevented, especially in early spring. The mauve stinger Pelagia noctiluca is the most common jellyfish in the Mediterranean Sea. Along the Catalan Coast, stranded P. noctiluca medusae occurred throughout the sampling period, but with highest abundances in spring and spatially correlated with submarine canyons. Bayesian analysis of the importance of stochastic versus deterministic drivers of jellyfish outbreaks along the Catalan Coast showed that jellyfish outbreaks were more frequent in May and June, particularly in the years 2009 and 2010. Results indicated that deterministic processes were more important than the stochastic component of environmental variation, suggesting that extreme events, visualized as the compound effects of environmental variables, did not affect the probability of an outbreak along the Catalan Coast. From a stated-choice questionnaire we calculated that the well-being gains associated with a reduction of jellyfish outbreaks in this area would range between €312 and €322 million annually, corresponding approximately to 19% of the tourism expenditures of the Catalan population in 2012. Improvement in the beach water quality was, by far, the most valuable attribute for all types of respondents. Improvement in the beach infrastructure was ranked second and reduction in the risk of jellyfish outbreaks, third. This study confirms the urgency to provide daily information by use of the wide set of social media applications.