Widespread prevalence of hypoxia and the classification of hypoxic conditions in the Laurentian Great Lakes

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Abstract

Aquatic hypoxia within the Laurentian Great Lakes has contributed to various adverse ecological consequences and stimulated research interest in recent decades. An analysis of published peer-reviewed journal articles from 2000 to 2020 demonstrates an increasing trend of studies related to hypoxia in the Laurentian Great Lakes. However, the majority of these studies (78%) focus on Lake Erie and in particular the well-documented hypolimnetic hypoxic conditions that develop in the central basin of Lake Erie. This hypoxic zone is relatively large (up to 1.5 million ha), has substantial ecological effects, and motivates monitoring programs and water quality improvement initiatives. Nonetheless, the hypoxic zone in the central basin of Lake Erie is only one of over twenty documented hypoxic zones in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Moreover, hypoxic conditions in the Great Lakes are quite diverse. Here, we define and characterize a four-fold classification of Great Lakes hypoxic conditions: 1) hypolimnetic hypoxia, 2) over-winter hypoxia, 3) diel hypoxia, and 4) episodic hypoxia. We suggest that Great Lakes research and monitoring programs should seek to more broadly document hypoxic conditions and develop models to predict the temporal and spatial occurrence of hypoxia. Such efforts are particularly timely as future climatic conditions contributing to warmer temperatures, longer and more intense stratified periods, increased spring nutrient loading and more variable allocthonous inputs are expected to exacerbate three of the four hypoxic conditions described for the Great Lakes (hypolimnetic, diel, and episodic hypoxia).

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Tellier, J. M., Kalejs, N. I., Leonhardt, B. S., Cannon, D., Hӧӧk, T. O., & Collingsworth, P. D. (2022, February 1). Widespread prevalence of hypoxia and the classification of hypoxic conditions in the Laurentian Great Lakes. Journal of Great Lakes Research. International Association of Great Lakes Research. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jglr.2021.11.004

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