Ecosystem impacts of hypoxia: Thresholds of hypoxia and pathways to recovery

A. Steckbauer*, Carlos Duarte, J. Carstensen, R. Vaquer-Sunyer, D. J. Conley

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

80 Scopus citations

Abstract

Coastal hypoxia is increasing in the global coastal zone, where it is recognized as a major threat to biota. Managerial efforts to prevent hypoxia and achieve recovery of ecosystems already affected by hypoxia are largely based on nutrient reduction plans. However, these managerial efforts need to be informed by predictions on the thresholds of hypoxia (i.e.the oxygen levels required to conserve biodiversity) as well as the timescales for the recovery of ecosystems already affected by hypoxia. The thresholds for hypoxia in coastal ecosystems are higher than previously thought and are not static, but regulated by local and global processes, being particularly sensitive to warming. The examination of recovery processes in a number of coastal areas managed for reducing nutrient inputs and, thus, hypoxia (Northern Adriatic; Black Sea; Baltic Sea; Delaware Bay; and Danish Coastal Areas) reveals that recovery timescales following the return to normal oxygen conditions are much longer than those of loss following the onset of hypoxia, and typically involve decadal timescales. The extended lag time for ecosystem recovery from hypoxia results in non-linear pathways of recovery due to hysteresis and the shift in baselines, affecting the oxygen thresholds for hypoxia through time.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number025003
JournalEnvironmental Research Letters
Volume6
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 1 2011

Keywords

  • hypoxia
  • recovery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Renewable Energy, Sustainability and the Environment
  • Environmental Science(all)
  • Public Health, Environmental and Occupational Health

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