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The study, conducted at the GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research in Keil, Germany, is being called the the first in-depth study of global ocean oxygen content, examining how global warming is impacting oceanic oxygen and why it is a concern.
Warmer water temperatures account for 15 per cent of oxygen loss, the researchers found, the majority from reduced stratification — when surface water doesn’t sink to the ocean floor — caused by changing temperatures in the Arctic and the melting of sea ice.
The dead zones are often in shallower waters where fish can’t thrive, the research states. These dead zones also pump out nitrous oxide, which is a greenhouse gas and further contributes to climate change.
“While the slight decrease of oxygen in the atmosphere is currently considered non-critical, the oxygen losses in the ocean can have far-reaching consequences because of the uneven distribution. For fisheries and coastal economies this process may have detrimental consequences,” co-author Lothar Stramma said.
The study is published in the journal Nature.