Oxygen is critical to the health of the planet. It affects the cycles of carbon, nitrogen and other key elements, and is a fundamental requirement for marine life from the seashore to the greatest depths of the ocean. Nevertheless, deoxygenation, the reduction of oxygen, is worsening in the coastal and open ocean. This is mainly the result of human activities that are increasing global temperatures (CO2-induced warming) and increasing loads of nutrients from agriculture, sewage, and industrial waste, including pollution from power generation from fossil fuels and biomass.
Figure 1. Photographs of the dominant reef-building coral A. lamarcki found alive in normoxic sites (above) versus dead following hypoxia (below). © Andrew Altieri
15 things to know about the declining oxygen in the world’s ocean:
Figure 2. Some deoxygenation numbers and effects. Source: GO2NE.
The Global Ocean Oxygen Network (GO2NE) – IOC working group is committed to providing a global and multidisciplinary view of deoxygenation, with a focus on understanding its multiple aspects and impacts.
The Network’s research, outreach, and capacity building efforts include facilitating communication with other established ocean science and observation networks and programmes in working groups (e.g. IOCCP, GOOS, GOA-ON, GlobalHAB, WESTPAC O2NE, IMBeR, Future Earth Ocean KAN, SOLAS). The Network’s aim is to improve observation systems, identify and fill knowledge gaps, as well as develop and implement capacity building activities worldwide. GO2NE’s communication efforts include the website ocean-oxygen.org, supported by GO2NE, which provides the latest information on deoxygenation to scientists, stakeholders and the interested public and a monthly webinar, which offers the possibility to listen to two scientists (one junior and one senior) presenting the underlying mechanisms and impacts of ocean deoxygenation.
Global Ocean Oxygen Decade (GOOD): GO2NE and partners are part of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development. From 2021 to 2030, the Ocean Decade programme GOOD – Global Ocean Oxygen Decade - will raise global awareness about ocean deoxygenation, provide knowledge for understanding causes, attributing changes and developing actions for mitigation and adaptation measures through local, regional and global efforts, including intensified monitoring, transdisciplinary research, bi-directional knowledge transfer among stakeholders and scientists, innovative outreach and ocean education and literacy. The high-level objective of the Decade Programme is to provide data, knowledge, highly qualified personnel via capacity building and best practices to enable society, stakeholders, and scientists to co-design and develop measures that can mitigate the drivers and impacts of ocean deoxygenation and provide appropriate adaptation measures where mitigation is not possible. Developing mitigation of and/or adaptation approaches to deoxygenation are of paramount importance for ensuring the provision of ecosystem services, addressing threats to the climate system and minimizing the impact of ocean deoxygenation on the ocean economy.
Ocean Oxygen News
Oxygen in the International Ocean Carbon Coordination Project (IOCCP)
Past GO2NE webinars
Listen to hypoxia: Impacts of low oxygen made audible, by Project Breathless
Dead zones: how chemical pollution is suffocating the sea (video)
Kiel Declaration on Ocean Deoxygenation
Ocean deoxygenation: Everyone’s problem (IUCN, 2019)
Ocean Deoxygenation: A Hidden Threat to Biodiversity beyond national jurisdiction (DOSI, 2019)
The Ocean is losing its breath: declining oxygen in the world's ocean and coastal waters; summary for policy makers (IOC, 2018)
Ocean oxygen in the Ocean Observing System Report card 2021
Declining oxygen in the global ocean and coastal waters (Science, 2018)
Multidisciplinary Observing in the World Ocean’s Oxygen Minimum Zone Regions: From Climate to Fish — The VOICE Initiative (Frontiers, 2019)
System controls of coastal and open ocean oxygen depletion (Progress in Oceanography, 2021)
A global ocean oxygen database and atlas for assessing and predicting deoxygenation and ocean health in the open and coastal ocean (submitted to Frontiers, 2021)