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      Modeling the Effect of Hypoxia on Macrobenthos Production in the Lower Rappahannock River, Chesapeake Bay, USA

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          Hypoxia in Chesapeake Bay has substantially increased in recent decades, with detrimental effects on macrobenthic production; the production of these fauna link energy transfer from primary consumers to epibenthic and demersal predators. As such, the development of accurate predictive models that determine the impact of hypoxia on macrobenthic production is important. A continuous-time, biomass-based model was developed for the lower Rappahannock River, a Bay tributary prone to seasonal hypoxia. Phytoplankton, zooplankton, and macrobenthic state variables were modeled, with a focus on quantitatively constraining the effect of hypoxia on macrobenthic biomass. This was accomplished through regression with Z': a sigmoidal function between macrobenthic biomass and dissolved oxygen concentration, derived using macrobenthic data collected from the Rappahannock River during the summers of 2007 and 2008, and applied to compute hypoxia-induced mortality as a rate process. The model was verified using independent monitoring data collected by the Chesapeake Bay Program. Simulations showed that macrobenthic biomass was strongly linked to dissolved oxygen concentrations, with fluctuations in biomass related to the duration and severity of hypoxia. Our model demonstrated that hypoxia negatively affected macrobenthic biomass, as longer durations of hypoxia and greater hypoxic severity resulted in an increasing loss in biomass. This exercise represents an important contribution to modeling anthropogenically impacted coastal ecosystems, by providing an empirically constrained relationship between hypoxia and macrobenthic biomass, and applying that empirical relationship in a mechanistic model to quantify the effect of the severity, duration, and frequency of hypoxia on benthic biomass dynamics.

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          Thresholds of hypoxia for marine biodiversity.

          Hypoxia is a mounting problem affecting the world's coastal waters, with severe consequences for marine life, including death and catastrophic changes. Hypoxia is forecast to increase owing to the combined effects of the continued spread of coastal eutrophication and global warming. A broad comparative analysis across a range of contrasting marine benthic organisms showed that hypoxia thresholds vary greatly across marine benthic organisms and that the conventional definition of 2 mg O(2)/liter to designate waters as hypoxic is below the empirical sublethal and lethal O(2) thresholds for half of the species tested. These results imply that the number and area of coastal ecosystems affected by hypoxia and the future extent of hypoxia impacts on marine life have been generally underestimated.
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            Bioturbation: a fresh look at Darwin's last idea.

            Bioturbation refers to the biological reworking of soils and sediments, and its importance for soil processes and geomorphology was first realised by Charles Darwin, who devoted his last scientific book to the subject. Here, we review some new insights into the evolutionary and ecological role of bioturbation that would have probably amazed Darwin. In modern ecological theory, bioturbation is now recognised as an archetypal example of 'ecosystem engineering', modifying geochemical gradients, redistributing food resources, viruses, bacteria, resting stages and eggs. From an evolutionary perspective, recent investigations provide evidence that bioturbation had a key role in the evolution of metazoan life at the end of the Precambrian Era.
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              Chesapeake bay anoxia: origin, development, and significance.

              Anoxia occurs annually in deeper waters of the central portion of the Chesapeake Bay and presently extends from Baltimore to the mouth of the Potomac estuary. This condition, which encompasses some 5 billion cubic meters of water and lasts from May to September, is the result of increased stratification of the water column in early spring, with consequent curtailment of reoxygenation of the bottom waters across the halocline, and benthic decay of organic detritus accumulated from plankton blooms of the previous summer and fall. The Chesapeake Bay anoxia appears to have had significant ecological effects on many marine species, including several of economic importance.

                Author and article information

                Role: Editor
                PLoS One
                PLoS ONE
                PLoS ONE
                Public Library of Science (San Francisco, USA )
                31 December 2013
                : 8
                : 12
                : e84140
                [1 ]Division of Marine Science and Conservation, Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University, Beaufort, North Carolina, United States of America
                [2 ]Virginia Institute of Marine Science, College of William & Mary, Gloucester Point, Virginia, United States of America
                Dauphin Island Sea Lab; University of South Alabama, United States of America
                Author notes

                Competing Interests: The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.

                Conceived and designed the experiments: SKS. Performed the experiments: SKS. Analyzed the data: SKS MJB. Contributed reagents/materials/analysis tools: SKS MJB RJD. Wrote the paper: SKS MJB RJD.

                Copyright @ 2013

                This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original author and source are credited.

                : 6 May 2013
                : 12 November 2013
                Page count
                Pages: 13
                Virginia DEQ funded the benthic monitoring program in the lower Bay. Support for this work was provided by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration grant NA05NOS4781202, a National Science Foundation funded Hall-Bonner Fellowship, and a National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Graduate Sciences Program fellowship. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. No additional external funding received for this study.
                Research Article
                Ecological Environments
                Marine Environments
                Chemical Ecology
                Marine Ecology
                Marine Biology
                Coastal Ecology
                Marine Ecology
                Marine Monitoring
                Earth Sciences
                Marine and Aquatic Sciences
                Water Quality
                Dissolved Oxygen
                Marine Ecology
                Marine Monitoring



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