Deoxygenation of the Baltic Sea during the last century.
ABSTRACT: Deoxygenation is a global problem in coastal and open regions of the ocean, and has led to expanding areas of oxygen minimum zones and coastal hypoxia. The recent expansion of hypoxia in coastal ecosystems has been primarily attributed to global warming and enhanced nutrient input from land and atmosphere. The largest anthropogenically induced hypoxic area in the world is the Baltic Sea, where the relative importance of physical forcing versus eutrophication is still debated. We have analyzed water column oxygen and salinity profiles to reconstruct oxygen and stratification conditions over the last 115 y and compare the influence of both climate and anthropogenic forcing on hypoxia. We report a 10-fold increase of hypoxia in the Baltic Sea and show that this is primarily linked to increased inputs of nutrients from land, although increased respiration from higher temperatures during the last two decades has contributed to worsening oxygen conditions. Although shifts in climate and physical circulation are important factors modulating the extent of hypoxia, further nutrient reductions in the Baltic Sea will be necessary to reduce the ecosystems impacts of deoxygenation.
Project description:Hypoxia is a well-described phenomenon in the offshore waters of the Baltic Sea with both the spatial extent and intensity of hypoxia known to have increased due to anthropogenic eutrophication, however, an unknown amount of hypoxia is present in the coastal zone. Here we report on the widespread unprecedented occurrence of hypoxia across the coastal zone of the Baltic Sea. We have identified 115 sites that have experienced hypoxia during the period 1955-2009 increasing the global total to ca. 500 sites, with the Baltic Sea coastal zone containing over 20% of all known sites worldwide. Most sites experienced episodic hypoxia, which is a precursor to development of seasonal hypoxia. The Baltic Sea coastal zone displays an alarming trend with hypoxia steadily increasing with time since the 1950s effecting nutrient biogeochemical processes, ecosystem services, and coastal habitat.
Project description:Hypoxia has occurred intermittently over the Holocene in the Baltic Sea, but the recent expansion from less than 10 000 km(2) before 1950 to >60 000 km(2) since 2000 is mainly caused by enhanced nutrient inputs from land and atmosphere. With worsening hypoxia, the role of sediments changes from nitrogen removal to nitrogen release as ammonium. At present, denitrification in the water column and sediments is equally important. Phosphorus is currently buried in sediments mainly in organic form, with an additional contribution of reduced Fe-phosphate minerals in the deep anoxic basins. Upon the transition to oxic conditions, a significant proportion of the organic phosphorus will be remineralized, with the phosphorus then being bound to iron oxides. This iron-oxide bound phosphorus is readily released to the water column upon the onset of hypoxia again. Important ecosystems services carried out by the benthic fauna, including biogeochemical feedback-loops and biomass production, are also lost with hypoxia. The results provide quantitative knowledge of nutrient release and recycling processes under various environmental conditions in support of decision support tools underlying the Baltic Sea Action Plan.
Project description:Global observations show that the ocean lost approximately 2% of its oxygen inventory over the last five decades 1-3, with important implications for marine ecosystems 4, 5. The rate of change varies with northwest Atlantic coastal waters showing a long-term drop 6, 7 that vastly outpaces the global and North Atlantic basin mean deoxygenation rates 5, 8. However, past work has been unable to resolve mechanisms of large-scale climate forcing from local processes. Here, we use hydrographic evidence to show a Labrador Current retreat is playing a key role in the deoxygenation on the northwest Atlantic shelf. A high-resolution global coupled climate-biogeochemistry model 9 reproduces the observed decline of saturation oxygen concentrations in the region, driven by a retreat of the equatorward-flowing Labrador Current and an associated shift toward more oxygen-poor subtropical waters on the shelf. The dynamical changes underlying the shift in shelf water properties are correlated with a slowdown in the simulated Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation 10. Our results provide strong evidence that a major, centennial-scale change of the Labrador Current is underway, and highlight the potential for ocean dynamics to impact coastal deoxygenation over the coming century.
Project description:Coastal benthic biodiversity is under increased pressure from climate change, eutrophication, hypoxia, and changes in salinity due to increase in river runoff. The Baltic Sea is a large brackish system characterized by steep environmental gradients that experiences all of the mentioned stressors. As such it provides an ideal model system for studying the impact of on-going and future climate change on biodiversity and function of benthic ecosystems. Meiofauna (animals < 1 mm) are abundant in sediment and are still largely unexplored even though they are known to regulate organic matter degradation and nutrient cycling. In this study, benthic meiofaunal community structure was analysed along a salinity gradient in the Baltic Sea proper using high-throughput sequencing. Our results demonstrate that areas with higher salinity have a higher biodiversity, and salinity is probably the main driver influencing meiofauna diversity and community composition. Furthermore, in the more diverse and saline environments a larger amount of nematode genera classified as predators prevailed, and meiofauna-macrofauna associations were more prominent. These findings show that in the Baltic Sea, a decrease in salinity resulting from accelerated climate change will probably lead to decreased benthic biodiversity, and cause profound changes in benthic communities, with potential consequences for ecosystem stability, functions and services.
Project description:Nutrient over-enrichment is one of the classic triggering mechanisms for the occurrence of cyanobacteria blooms in aquatic ecosystems. In the Baltic Sea, cyanobacteria regularly occur in the late summer months and form nuisance accumulations in surface waters and their abundance has intensified significantly in the past 50 years attributed to human-induced eutrophication. However, the natural occurrence of cyanobacteria during the Holocene is debated. In this study, we present records of cyanobacteria pigments, water column redox proxies, and nitrogen isotopic signatures for the past ca. 8000 years from Baltic Sea sediment cores. Our results demonstrate that cyanobacteria abundance and nitrogen fixation are correlated with hypoxia occurring during three main intervals: (1) ca. 7000-4000 B.P. during the Littorina transgression, (2) ca. 1400-700 B.P. during the Medieval Climate Anomaly, and (3) from ca. 1950 A.D. to the present. Issues of preservation were investigated, and we show that organic matter and pigment profiles are not simply an artifact of preservation. These results suggest that cyanobacteria abundance is sustained during periods of hypoxia, most likely because of enhanced recycling of phosphorus in low oxygen conditions.
Project description:The Baltic Sea is suffering from eutrophication caused by nutrient discharges from land to sea, and these loads might change in a changing climate. We show that the impact from climate change by mid-century is probably less than the direct impact of changing socioeconomic factors such as land use, agricultural practices, atmospheric deposition, and wastewater emissions. We compare results from dynamic modelling of nutrient loads to the Baltic Sea under projections of climate change and scenarios for shared socioeconomic pathways. Average nutrient loads are projected to increase by 8% and 14% for nitrogen and phosphorus, respectively, in response to climate change scenarios. In contrast, changes in the socioeconomic drivers can lead to a decrease of 13% and 6% or an increase of 11% and 9% in nitrogen and phosphorus loads, respectively, depending on the pathway. This indicates that policy decisions still play a major role in climate adaptation and in managing eutrophication in the Baltic Sea region.
Project description:In the sedimental organic matter of eutrophic continental seas, such as the largest dead zone in the world, the Baltic Sea, bacteria may directly participate in nutrient release by mineralizing organic matter or indirectly by altering the sediment's ability to retain nutrients. Here, we present a case study of a hypoxic sea, which receives riverine nutrient loading and in which microbe-mediated vicious cycles of nutrients prevail. We showed that bacterial communities changed along the horizontal loading and vertical mineralization gradients in the Gulf of Finland of the Baltic Sea, using multivariate statistics of terminal restriction fragments and sediment chemical, spatial and other properties of the sampling sites. The change was mainly explained by concentrations of organic carbon, nitrogen and phosphorus, which showed strong positive correlation with Flavobacteria, Sphingobacteria, Alphaproteobacteria and Gammaproteobacteria. These bacteria predominated in the most organic-rich coastal surface sediments overlain by oxic bottom water, whereas sulphate-reducing bacteria, particularly the genus Desulfobacula, prevailed in the reduced organic-rich surface sediments in the open sea. They correlated positively with organic nitrogen and phosphorus, as well as manganese oxides. These relationships suggest that the bacterial groups participated in the aerobic and anaerobic degradation of organic matter and contributed to nutrient cycling. The high abundance of sulphate reducers in the surficial sediment layers reflects the persistence of eutrophication-induced hypoxia causing ecosystem-level changes in the Baltic Sea. The sulphate reducers began to decrease below depths of 20 cm, where members of the family Anaerolineaceae (phylum Chloroflexi) increased, possibly taking part in terminal mineralization processes. Our study provides valuable information on how organic loading affects sediment bacterial community compositions, which consequently may maintain active nutrient recycling. This information is needed to improve our understanding on nutrient cycling in shallow seas where the dead zones are continuously spreading worldwide.
Project description:To reduce eutrophication of the Baltic Sea, all nine surrounding countries have agreed upon reduction targets in the HELCOM Baltic Sea Action Plan (BSAP). Yet, monitoring sites and model concepts for decision support are few. To provide one more tool for analysis of water and nutrient fluxes in the Baltic Sea basin, the HYPE model has been applied to the region (called Balt-HYPE). It was used here for experimenting with land-based remedial measures and future climate projections to quantify the impacts of these on water and nutrient loads to the sea. The results suggest that there is a possibility to reach the BSAP nutrient reduction targets by 2100, and that climate change may both aggravate and help in some aspects. Uncertainties in the model results are large, mainly due to the spread of the climate model projections, but also due to the hydrological model.
Project description:Reducing anthropogenic nutrient inputs is a major policy goal for restoring good environmental status of coastal marine ecosystems. However, it is unclear to what extent reducing nutrients would also lower fish production and fisheries yields. Empirical examples of changes in nutrient loads and concurrent fish production can provide useful insights to this question. In this paper, we investigate to what extent a multi-fold increase in nutrient loads from the 1950s to 1980s enhanced forage fish production in the Baltic Sea. We use monitoring data on fish stock dynamics covering the period of the nutrient increase, combined with nutrient concentrations from a 3-dimensional coupled physical-biogeochemical ocean model. The results suggest that nutrient enrichment enhanced the biomass level of forage fish by up to 50 % in some years and areas due to increased body weight of fish. However, the trends in fish biomasses were generally decoupled from changes in nutrient concentrations.
Project description:BACKGROUND: Marine microbial communities have been essential contributors to global biomass, nutrient cycling, and biodiversity since the early history of Earth, but so far their community distribution patterns remain unknown in most marine ecosystems. METHODOLOGY/PRINCIPAL FINDINGS: The synthesis of 9.6 million bacterial V6-rRNA amplicons for 509 samples that span the global ocean's surface to the deep-sea floor shows that pelagic and benthic communities greatly differ, at all taxonomic levels, and share <10% bacterial types defined at 3% sequence similarity level. Surface and deep water, coastal and open ocean, and anoxic and oxic ecosystems host distinct communities that reflect productivity, land influences and other environmental constraints such as oxygen availability. The high variability of bacterial community composition specific to vent and coastal ecosystems reflects the heterogeneity and dynamic nature of these habitats. Both pelagic and benthic bacterial community distributions correlate with surface water productivity, reflecting the coupling between both realms by particle export. Also, differences in physical mixing may play a fundamental role in the distribution patterns of marine bacteria, as benthic communities showed a higher dissimilarity with increasing distance than pelagic communities. CONCLUSIONS/SIGNIFICANCE: This first synthesis of global bacterial distribution across different ecosystems of the World's oceans shows remarkable horizontal and vertical large-scale patterns in bacterial communities. This opens interesting perspectives for the definition of biogeographical biomes for bacteria of ocean waters and the seabed.