, Volume 25, Issue 4, pp 767-781

Effects of hypoxia, and the balance between hypoxia and enrichment, on coastal fishes and fisheries

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Abstract

A reduction in dissolved oxygen concentration is one of the most important direct effects of nutrient over-enrichment of coastal waters on fishes. Because hypoxia can cause mortality, reduced growth rates, and altered distributions and behaviors of fishes, as well as changes in the relative importance of organisms and pathways of carbon flow within food webs, hypoxia and anoxia can lead to large reductions in the abundance, diversity, and harvest of fishes within affected waters. Nutrient enrichment, however, typically increases prey abundance in more highly oxygenated surface waters and beyond the boundaries of the hypoxic zone. Because of this mosaic of high and low oxygen areas within a system, not only the actual oxygen concentration of bottom waters, but the spatial arrangement, predictability, and persistence of highly oxygenated, high productivity habitats, and the ability of fishes to locate and use those favorable habitats, will determine the ultimate effect of low oxygen on fish populations. Negative effects of hypoxia on fish, habitat, and food webs potentially make both fish populations and entire systems more susceptible to additional anthropogenic and natural stressors.