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New Study Examines Oxygen Loss on Coral Reefs

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A new study is providing an unprecedented examination of oxygen loss on coral reefs around the globe under ocean warming. Led by researchers at UC San Diego’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography and a large team of national and international colleagues, the study captures the current state of hypoxia—or low oxygen levels—at 32 different sites, and reveals that hypoxia is already pervasive on many reefs.

This is the first paper to document oxygen conditions on coral reef ecosystems at this scale. The findings were published March 16, 2023 in the journal Nature Climate Change.

“This study is unique because our lab worked with a number of collaborators to compile this global oxygen dataset especially focused on coral reefs—no one has really done that on a global scale before with this number of datasets,” said lead author Ariel Pezner, a recent graduate of Scripps Oceanography and current postdoc at the Smithsonian Marine Station in Florida. “We were surprised to find that a lot of coral reefs are already experiencing what we would define as hypoxia today under current conditions.”

This research was funded mainly by the National Science Foundation. The paper involved a total of 22 authors representing 14 different research organizations and universities including UC San Diego; University of Puerto Rico at Mayagüez; NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center; National Taiwan Ocean University; Georgia Southern University; University of Montana; Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute; National Sun Yat-sen University; Okinawa Institute of Science and Technology; Sea Education Association; Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute; National Taiwan University; and the U.S. Geological Survey.

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