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The Ocean Is Running Out of Breath, Scientists Warn

Widespread and sometimes drastic marine oxygen declines are stressing sensitive species—a trend that will continue with climate change

"Escaping predators, digestion and other animal activities—including those of humans—require oxygen. But that essential ingredient is no longer so easy for marine life to obtain, several new studies reveal.

In the past decade ocean oxygen levels have taken a dive—an alarming trend that is linked to climate change, says Andreas Oschlies, an oceanographer at the Helmholtz Center for Ocean Research Kiel in Germany, whose team tracks ocean oxygen levels worldwide. “We were surprised by the intensity of the changes we saw, how rapidly oxygen is going down in the ocean and how large the effects on marine ecosystems are,” he says. [...]"

Source: Scientific American
Author: Laura Poppick

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Isotopic evidence for complex biogeochemical cycling of Cd in the eastern tropical South Pacific

Abstract.

"Over the past decades, observations have confirmed decreasing oxygen levels and shoaling of oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) in the tropical oceans. Such changes impact the biogeochemical cycling of micronutrients such as Cd, but the potential consequences are only poorly constrained. Here, we present seawater Cd concentrations and isotope compositions for 12 depth profiles at coastal, nearshore and offshore stations from 4°S to 14°S in the eastern tropical South Pacific, where one of the world's strongest OMZs prevails. [...]"

Source: Earth and PLanetary Science Letters
Authors: Ruifang C. Xie et al.
DOI: 10.1016/j.epsl.2019.02.001

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Deep‐sea oxygen depletion and ocean carbon sequestration during the last ice age

Abstract.

"Enhanced ocean carbon storage during the Pleistocene ice ages lowered atmospheric CO2 concentrations by 80 to 100 ppm relative to interglacial levels. Leading hypotheses to explain this phenomenon invoke a greater efficiency of the ocean's biological pump, in which case carbon storage in the deep sea would have been accompanied by a corresponding reduction in dissolved oxygen. We exploit the sensitivity of organic matter preservation in marine sediments to bottom water oxygen concentration to constrain the level of dissolved oxygen in the deep central equatorial Pacific Ocean during the last glacial period (18,000 – 28,000 years BP) to have been within the range of 20‐50 μmol/kg, much less than modern value of ca. 168 μmol/kg. [...]"

Source: Global Biogeochemical Cycles
Authors: Robert F. Anderson et al.
DOI: 10.1029/2018GB006049

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Consequences of climate-induced low oxygen conditions for commercially important fish

Abstract.

"Oxygen availability is key in determining habitat suitability for marine fish. As a result of climate change, low oxygen conditions are predicted to occur more frequently and over a greater geographic extent. Studies assessing the long-term chronic effects and impacts for commercially important fish are rare. To assess the potential effects of climate-induced low oxygen on fisheries, physiological data, such as critical thresholds, derived from laboratory experiments on 5 commercial fish species were integrated with hindcast and future oxygen projections from the hydrodynamic-biogeochemical model GETM-ERSEM. [...]"

Source: Marine Ecology Progress Series (2017)
Authors: Bryony L. Townhill et al.
DOI: 10.3354/meps12291

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How fast are the oceans warming?

Abstract.

"Climate change from human activities mainly results from the energy imbalance in Earth's climate system caused by rising concentrations of heat-trapping gases. About 93% of the energy imbalance accumulates in the ocean as increased ocean heat content (OHC). The ocean record of this imbalance is much less affected by internal variability and is thus better suited for detecting and attributing human influences than more commonly used surface temperature records. Recent observation-based estimates show rapid warming of Earth's oceans over the past few decades (see the figure). [...]"

Source: Science
Authors: Lijing Cheng et al
DOI: 10.1126/science.aav7619

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Deglacial to Holocene Ocean Temperatures in the Humboldt Current System as Indicated by Alkenone Paleothermometry

Abstract.

"The response of the Humboldt Current System to future global warming is uncertain. Here we reconstruct alkenone‐derived near‐surface temperatures from multiple cores along the Peruvian coast to infer the driving mechanisms of upwelling changes for the last 20 kyr. Our records show a deglacial warming consistent with Antarctic ice‐core temperatures and a Mid‐Holocene cooling, which, in combination with other paleoceanographic records, suggest a strengthening of upwelling conditions. [...]"

Source: Geophysical Research Letters
Authors: Renato Salvatteci et al.
DOI: 10.1029/2018GL080634

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Ocean deoxygenation and zooplankton: Very small oxygen differences matter

Abstract.

"Oxygen minimum zones (OMZs), large midwater regions of very low oxygen, are expected to expand as a result of climate change. While oxygen is known to be important in structuring midwater ecosystems, a precise and mechanistic understanding of the effects of oxygen on zooplankton is lacking. Zooplankton are important components of midwater food webs and biogeochemical cycles. Here, we show that, in the eastern tropical North Pacific OMZ, previously undescribed submesoscale oxygen variability has a direct effect on the distribution of many major zooplankton groups. Despite extraordinary hypoxia tolerance, many zooplankton live near their physiological limits and respond to slight (≤1%) changes in oxygen. [...]"

Source: Science Advances
Authors: K. F. Wishner et al.
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.aau5180

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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 et al.
DOI: 10.1126/science.aat1327

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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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