Research project The environmental afterlives of the Suez Canal
Marine species transformation and biodiversity in the Mediterranean Sea
The Mediterranean Sea is undergoing an unmatched species transformation, due to a species influx enabled by successive dredging of the Suez Canal. So far, 350 tropical species have settled in the Mediterranean. More will come. Invasive species threaten the biodiversity; fishermen see declining catch; migrant jellyfish clog industrial cooling systems; pufferfish poison people. But this is not a story of rogue invasive species only, but the addition of a new layer of biota. Most new species have found own ecological niches; they are habitually consumed, and they will likely survive rising sea temperature as endemic species perish.
This more-than-human study explores this environmental and social afterlife of the Suez Canal through two aims:
- To write a social and cultural history of this species transformation, so far only described in biological terms, to account for its roots and recent acceleration by charting the complex and coincidental interplay between anthropogenic, geological, and biological processes.
- To study ethnographically how people in Egypt and Lebanon, who are heavily affected experience and adapt to drastically changing lifeworlds.
Approaching the transformation as a process propelled by 19th- and 20th-century infrastructural projects that now returns to haunt Mediterranean worlds, the project seeks to document one of our time’s largest environmental processes and provide holistic insights into this unforeseeable afterlife of the Suez Canal.
For more information, see the The environmental afterlives of the Suez Canal Research Program (619 Kb) .