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Global warming today mirrors conditions leading to Earth's largest extinction event, study says

"More than two-thirds of life on Earth died off some 252 million years ago, in the largest mass extinction event in Earth's history.

Researchers have long suspected that volcanic eruptions triggered "the Great Dying," as the end of the Permian geologic period is sometimes called, but exactly how so many creatures died has been something of a mystery.

Now scientists at the University of Washington and Stanford believe their models reveal how so many animals were killed, and they see frightening parallels in the path our planet is on today.

Models of the effects of volcanic greenhouse gas releases showed the Earth warming dramatically and oxygen disappearing from its oceans, leaving many marine animals unable to breathe, according to a study published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Science. By the time temperatures peaked, about 80 percent of the oceans' oxygen, on average, had been depleted. Most marine animals went extinct. [...]"

Source: Phys.org

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Temperature-dependent hypoxia explains biogeography and severity of end-Permian marine mass extinction

Abstract.

"Climate change triggered by volcanic greenhouse gases is hypothesized to have caused the largest mass extinction in Earth’s history at the end of the Permian Period (~252 million years ago). Geochemical evidence provides strong support for rapid global warming and accompanying ocean oxygen (O2) loss, but a quantitative link among climate, species’ traits, and extinction is lacking. To test whether warming and O2 loss can mechanistically account for the marine mass extinction, we combined climate model simulations with an established ecophysiological framework to predict the biogeographic patterns and severity of extinction. Those predictions were confirmed by a spatially explicit analysis of the marine fossil record. [...]"

Source: Science
Authors: Justin L. Penn
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat1327

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A Novel Approach for Measuring the Gulf of Mexico Dead Zone: Toward Better Temporal and Spatial Estimates for Management Applications

Abstract.

"Nearly every summer, a large hypoxic zone forms in the northern Gulf of Mexico. Research on the causes and consequences of hypoxia requires reliable estimates of hypoxic extent, which can vary at submonthly time scales due to hydro-meteorological variability. Here, we use an innovative space-time geostatistical model and data collected by multiple research organizations to estimate bottom-water dissolved oxygen (BWDO) concentrations and hypoxic area across summers from 1985 to 2016. [...]"

Source: Environmental Science and Technology 
Authors: V. Rohith Reddy Matli et al.
DOI: 10.1021/acs.est.8b03474

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Distribution of Meiofauna in Bathyal Sediments Influenced by the Oxygen Minimum Zone Off Costa Rica

Abstract.

"Ocean deoxygenation has become a topic of increasing concern because of its potential impacts on marine ecosystems, including oxygen minimum zone (OMZ) expansion and subsequent benthic effects. We investigated the influence of oxygen concentration and organic matter (OM) availability on metazoan meiofauna within and below an OMZ in bathyal sediments off Costa Rica, testing the hypothesis that oxygen and OM levels are reflected in meiofaunal community structures and distribution. Mean total densities in our sampling cores (400–1800 m water depth) were highest with 3688 ind. 10 cm−2 at the OMZ core at 400 m water depth, decreasing rapidly downslope. [...]"

Source: Frontiers in Marine Science
Authors: Carlos Neira et al.
DOI: 10.3389/fmars.2018.00448

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Finding forced trends in oceanic oxygen

Abstract.

"Anthropogenically forced trends in oceanic dissolved oxygen are evaluated in Earth system models in the context of natural variability. A large ensemble of a single Earth system model is used to clearly identify the forced component of change in interior oxygen distributions and to evaluate the magnitude of this signal relative to noise generated by internal climate variability. The time of emergence of forced trends is quantified on the basis of anomalies in oxygen concentrations and trends. [...]"

Source: Global Biogeochemical Cycles
Authors: Matthew C. Long, Curtis Deutsch and Taka Ito
DOI: 10.1002/2015GB005310 

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Measuring carbon and nitrogen bioassimilation, burial, and denitrification contributions of oyster reefs in Gulf coast estuaries

Abstract.

"The eastern oyster (Crassostrea virginica) and the reefs they create provide significant ecosystem services. This study measured their possible role in nutrient mitigation through bioassimilation, burial, and oyster-mediated sediment denitrification in near-shore shallow water (< 1 m water depth) and deep-water (> 1 m water depth) oyster reefs in Louisiana. Nitrogen (N) and carbon (C) in shell and tissue differed by oyster reproductive status, size, and habitat type. [...]"

Source: Marine Biology
Authors: Phillip WestbrookLeanna, HeffnerMegan, K. La Peyre
DOI: 10.1007/s00227-018-3449-1

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Pacific Decadal Oscillation and recent oxygen decline in the eastern tropical Pacific Ocean

Abstract.

"The impact of the positive and negative phases of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO) on the extension of the poorly oxygenated regions of the eastern Pacific Ocean was assessed using a coupled ocean circulation–biogeochemical model. We show that during a “typical” PDO-positive phase the volume of the suboxic regions expands by 7 % over 50 years due to a slowdown of the large-scale circulation related to the decrease in the intensity of the trade winds. Changes in oxygen levels are mostly controlled by advective processes between 10∘ N and 10∘ S, whereas diffusive processes are dominant poleward of 10∘: in a “typical” PDO-positive phase the sluggish equatorial current system provides less oxygen to the eastern equatorial part of the basin while the oxygen transport by diffusive processes significantly decreases south of 10∘ S. [...]"

Source: Biogeosciences
Authors: Olaf Duteil, Andreas Oschlies, and Claus W. Böning
DOI: 10.5194/bg-15-7111-2018

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The case of the missing oxygen: Foster Scholar Kate Hewett studies hypoxia in national marine sanctuaries

"Not every marine scientist has the same origin story. Some are instantly enthralled by the ocean and its many inhabitants at a ripe young age. For others, a lightbulb goes off while sitting in an undergraduate class. Dr. Nancy Foster Scholar Kate Hewett grew up on the islands of Micronesia, but did not consider a career in marine sciences until graduate school. While working as an environmental engineer in Boston, Massachusetts, she decided to go back to school to develop a deeper understanding of the environmental problems she encountered at work. In her classes, the complicated physics associated with coastal zones pulled at Hewett’s engineering heartstrings. [...]"

Source: NOAA

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Tool to Capture Marine Biological Activity Gets Coastal Upgrade

"Upwelling hinders an efficient method to estimate a key measure of biological productivity in coastal waters, but accounting for surface temperatures could boost accuracy.

 

Although coastal waters make up only about 10% of the surface area of the ocean, they harbor most of its life. Measuring biological activity in these regions can reveal their impact on fisheries, low-oxygen dead zones, and the global carbon cycle, but coastal zones remain understudied. Now new research by Teeter et al. suggests how to improve the accuracy of a method that uses oxygen and argon measurements to quickly estimate marine biological activity. [...]"

Source: EOS

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Major intensification of Atlantic overturning circulation at the onset of Paleogene greenhouse warmth

Abstract.

"During the Late Cretaceous and early Cenozoic the Earth experienced prolonged climatic cooling most likely caused by decreasing volcanic activity and atmospheric CO2 levels. However, the causes and mechanisms of subsequent major global warming culminating in the late Paleocene to Eocene greenhouse climate remain enigmatic. We present deep and intermediate water Nd-isotope records from the North and South Atlantic to decipher the control of the opening Atlantic Ocean on ocean circulation and its linkages to the evolution of global climate. [...]"

Source: Nature Communications
Authors: S. J. Batenburg et al.
DOI: 10.1038/s41467-018-07457-7

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