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Dramatic expansion of dead zones in the oceans
Date:1/25/2009

Unchecked global warming would leave ocean dwellers gasping for breath. Dead zones are low-oxygen areas in the ocean where higher life forms such as fish, crabs and clams are not able to live. In shallow coastal regions, these zones can be caused by runoff of excess fertilizers from farming. A team of Danish researchers have now shown that unchecked global warming would lead to a dramatic expansion of low-oxygen areas zones in the global ocean by a factor of 10 or more.

Whereas some coastal dead zones could be recovered by control of fertilizer usage, expanded low-oxygen areas caused by global warming will remain for thousands of years to come, adversely affecting fisheries and ocean ecosystems far into the future. The findings are reported in a paper 'Long-term ocean oxygen depletion in response to carbon dioxide emissions from fossil fuels' published on-line in the scientific journal Nature Geoscience.

Professor Gary Shaffer of the Niels Bohr Institute, University of Copenhagen, who is the leader of the research team at the Danish Center for Earth System Science (DCESS), explains that "such expansion would lead to increased frequency and severity of fish and shellfish mortality events, for example off the west coasts of the continents like off Oregon and Chile".

Large extinction events

Together with senior scientists Steffen Olsen oceanographer at Danish Meteorological Institute and Jens Olaf Pepke Pedersen, physicist at National Space Institute, Technical University of Denmark, Professor Shaffer has performed projections with the newly-developed DCESS Earth System Model, projections that extend 100,000 years into the future.

He adds that "if, as in many climate model simulations, the overturning circulation of the ocean would greatly weaken in response to global warming, these oxygen minimum zones would expand much more still and invade the deep ocean." Extreme events of ocean oxygen depletion
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Contact: Gertie Skaarup
skaarup@nbi.dk
453-532-5320
University of Copenhagen
Source:Eurekalert

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