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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