Tropical deoxygenation sites revisited to investigate oxygen and nutrient trends

Stramma, Lothar; Schmidtko, Sunke

An oxygen decrease of the intermediate-depth low-oxygen zones (300 to 700 m) is seen in time series for selected tropical areas for the period 1960 to 2008 in the eastern tropical Atlantic, the equatorial Pacific and the eastern tropical Indian Ocean. These nearly 5-decade time series were extended to 68 years by including rare historic data starting in 1950 and more recent data. For the extended time series between 1950 and 2018, the deoxygenation trend for the layer 300 to 700 m is similar to the deoxygenation trend seen in the shorter time series. Additionally, temperature, salinity, and nutrient time series in the upper-ocean layer (50 to 300 m) of these areas were investigated since this layer provides critical pelagic habitat for biological communities. Due to the low amount of data available, the results are often not statistically significant within the 95 % confidence interval but nevertheless indicate trends worth discussing. Generally, oxygen is decreasing in the 50 to 300 m layer, except for an area in the eastern tropical South Atlantic. Nutrients also showed long-term trends in the 50 to 300 m layer in all ocean basins and indicate overlying variability related to climate modes. Nitrate increased in all areas. Phosphate also increased in the Atlantic Ocean and Indian Ocean areas, while it decreased in the two areas of the equatorial Pacific Ocean. Silicate decreased in the Atlantic and Pacific areas but increased in the eastern Indian Ocean. Hence, oxygen and nutrients show trends in the tropical oceans, though nutrients trends are more variable between ocean areas than the oxygen trends; therefore, we conclude that those trends are more dependent on local drivers in addition to a global trend. Different positive and negative trends in temperature, salinity, oxygen and nutrients indicate that oxygen and nutrient trends cannot be completely explained by local warming.

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Stramma, Lothar / Schmidtko, Sunke: Tropical deoxygenation sites revisited to investigate oxygen and nutrient trends. 2021. Copernicus Publications.

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