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Causes of the extensive hypoxia in the Gulf of Riga in 2018
Stoicescu, S.-T.; Laanemets, J.; Liblik, T.; Skudra, M.; Samlas, O.; Lips, I.; Lips, U. (2022). Causes of the extensive hypoxia in the Gulf of Riga in 2018. Biogeosciences 19(11): 2903-2920. https://dx.doi.org/10.5194/bg-19-2903-2022
In: Gattuso, J.P.; Kesselmeier, J. (Ed.) Biogeosciences. Copernicus Publications: Göttingen. ISSN 1726-4170; e-ISSN 1726-4189, more
Peer reviewed article  

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  • Stoicescu, S.-T.
  • Laanemets, J.
  • Liblik, T.
  • Skudra, M.
  • Samlas, O.
  • Lips, I.
  • Lips, U., more

    The Gulf of Riga is a relatively shallow bay connected to the deeper central Baltic Sea (Baltic Proper) via straits with sills. The decrease in the near-bottom oxygen levels from spring to autumn is a common feature in the gulf, but in 2018, extensive hypoxia was observed. We analyzed temperature, salinity, oxygen, and nutrient data collected in 2018, along with historical data available from environmental databases. Meteorological and hydrological data from the study year were compared with their long-term means and variability. We suggest that pronounced oxygen depletion occurred in 2018 due to a distinct development of vertical stratification. Seasonal stratification developed early and was stronger in spring-summer 2018 than on average due to high heat flux and weak winds. Dominating northeasterly winds in early spring and summer supported the inflow of saltier waters from the Baltic Proper that created an additional deep pycnocline restricting vertical transport between the near-bottom layer (NBL) and the water column above. The estimated oxygen consumption rate in the NBL in spring-summer 2018 was about 1.7 mmol O(2)m(-2)h(-1), which exceeded the oxygen input to the NBL due to advection and vertical mixing. Such a consumption rate leads to near-bottom hypoxia in all years when vertical mixing in autumn reaches the seabed later than on average according to the long-term (1979-2018) meteorological conditions. The observed increase in phosphate concentrations in the NBL in summer 2018 suggests a significant sediment phosphorus release in hypoxic conditions counteracting the mitigation measures to combat eutrophication. Since climate change projections predict that meteorological conditions comparable to those in 2018 will occur more frequently, extensive hypoxia would be more common in the Gulf of Riga and other coastal basins with similar morphology and human-induced elevated input of nutrients.

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