Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 37, Issue 5, pp 1219–1232 | Cite as

Relationship between Hypoxia and Macrobenthic Production in Chesapeake Bay

  • S. Kersey Sturdivant
  • Robert J. Díaz
  • Roberto Llansó
  • Daniel M. Dauer


Human development has degraded Chesapeake Bay's health, resulting in an increase in the extent and severity of hypoxia (≤2 mg O2 l-1). The Bay's hypoxic zones have an adverse effect on both community structure and secondary production of macrobenthos. From 1996 to 2004, the effect of hypoxia on macrobenthic production was assessed in Chesapeake Bay and its three main tributaries (Potomac, Rappahannock, and York Rivers). Each year, in the summer (late July − early September), 25 random samples of the benthic macrofauna were collected from each system, and macrobenthic production in the polyhaline and mesohaline regions was estimated using Edgar's allometric equation. Fluctuations in macrobenthic production were significantly correlated with dissolved oxygen. Macrobenthic production was 90 % lower during hypoxia relative to normoxia. As a result, there was a biomass loss of ~7,320–13,200 metric tons C over an area of 7,720 km2, which is estimated to equate to a 20 % to 35 % displacement of the Bay's macrobenthic productivity during the summer. While higher consumers may benefit from easy access to stressed prey in some areas, the large spatial and temporal extent of seasonal hypoxia limits higher trophic level transfer, via the inhibition of macrobenthic production. Such a massive loss of macrobenthic production would be detrimental to the overall health of the Bay, as it comes at a time when epibenthic and demersal predators have high-energy demands.


Estuary Energy flow Benthos Oxygen depletion Secondary production 



We thank the staff at Versar and the Old Dominion University for data from the Chesapeake Bay Program's Long-Term Benthic Monitoring Program. Maryland Department of Natural Resources and Virginia DEQ funded the benthic monitoring program. This study was supported in part by NOAA grant NA05NOS4781202 to R.J.D.


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Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • S. Kersey Sturdivant
    • 1
  • Robert J. Díaz
    • 2
  • Roberto Llansó
    • 3
  • Daniel M. Dauer
    • 4
  1. 1.Division of Marine Science and Conservation, Nicholas School of the EnvironmentDuke UniversityBeaufortUSA
  2. 2.Virginia Institute of Marine ScienceCollege of William and MaryGloucester Pt.USA
  3. 3.VersarColumbiaUSA
  4. 4.Department of Biological SciencesOld Dominion UniversityNorfolkUSA

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