Natural and human-induced hypoxia and consequences for coastal areas: synthesis and future development
Abstract. Hypoxia has become a world-wide phenomenon in the global coastal ocean and causes a deterioration of the structure and function of ecosystems. Based on the collective contributions of members of SCOR Working Group #128, the present study provides an overview of the major aspects of coastal hypoxia in different biogeochemical provinces, including estuaries, coastal waters, upwelling areas, fjords and semi-enclosed basins, with various external forcings, ecosystem responses, feedbacks and potential impact on the sustainability of the fishery and economics. The obvious external forcings include freshwater runoff and other factors contributing to stratification, organic matter and nutrient loadings, as well as exchange between coastal and open ocean water masses. Their different interactions set up mechanisms that drive the system towards hypoxia. Coastal systems also vary in their relative susceptibility to hypoxia depending on their physical and geographic settings. It is understood that coastal hypoxia has a profound impact on the sustainability of ecosystems, which can be seen, for example, by the change in the food-web structure and system function; other influences include compression and loss of habitat, as well as changes in organism life cycles and reproduction. In most cases, the ecosystem responds to the low dissolved oxygen in non-linear ways with pronounced feedbacks to other compartments of the Earth System, including those that affect human society. Our knowledge and previous experiences illustrate that there is a need to develop new observational tools and models to support integrated research of biogeochemical dynamics and ecosystem behavior that will improve confidence in remediation management strategies for coastal hypoxia.