In the summer of 2019, a coastal reef in the UAE experienced recurrent hypoxic events – moments when the amount of oxygen dissolved in the water is depleted and falls rapidly – which can pose adverse effects to the long-term maintenance of a thriving ecosystem. This is according to the latest study conducted by NYU Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) researchers.
NYUAD Associate Professor of Biology John Burt and Associate Professor of Mathematics Francesco Paparella, together with the researchers Alain De Verneil and Matthew Mitchell, studied a reef in the southern Gulf. The study, published in Frontiers in Marine Science, revealed interesting data which in the future with further research could help investigate the extent of the hypoxic events, whether they occur in other marine environments, and their consequences on the ecosystem.
A mathematical model applied to the observed oxygen and temperature data, taken at different depths on the same location, led scientists to conclude that microbial communities at the bottom of the water column appear to be the largest consumers of oxygen, which during the day is replenished by photosynthesis, but at night may drop to dangerously low levels. These drops, so far, do not last long enough to cause widespread mortality on the reef, but they cause stress to the ecosystem, and are very likely to be a contributing cause to summer coral bleaching.
The authors of this research are among the Principal Investigators in the new Arabian Center for Climate and Environmental ScienceS (ACCESS), and will use the Center’s resources to investigate further the extent of these hypoxic events and their lasting effects for the region’s marine life and ecosystem.