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Limnology and Oceanography








The oxygen concentration in marine ecosystems is influenced by production and consumption in the water column and fluxes across both the atmosphere-water and benthic-water boundaries. Each of these fluxes has the potential to be significant in shallow ecosystems due to high fluxes and low water volumes. This study evaluated the contributions of these three fluxes to the oxygen budget in two contrasting ecosystems, a Zostera marina (eelgrass) meadow in Virginia, U.S.A., and a coral reef in Bermuda. Benthic oxygen fluxes were evaluated by eddy covariance. Water column oxygen production and consumption were measured using an automated water incubation system. Atmosphere-water oxygen fluxes were estimated by parameterizations based on wind speed or turbulent kinetic energy dissipation rates. We observed significant contributions of both benthic fluxes and water column processes to the oxygen mass balance, despite the often-assumed dominance of the benthic communities. Water column rates accounted for 45% and 58% of the total oxygen rate, and benthic fluxes accounted for 23% and 39% of the total oxygen rate in the shallow (~ 1.5 m) eelgrass meadow and deeper (~ 7.5 m) reef site, respectively. Atmosphere-water fluxes were a minor component at the deeper reef site (3%) but a major component at the shallow eelgrass meadow (32%), driven by diel changes in the sign and strength of atmosphere-water gradient. When summed, the measured benthic, atmosphere-water, and water column rates predicted, with 85-90% confidence, the observed time rate of change of oxygen in the water column and provided an accurate, high temporal resolution closure of the oxygen mass balance.


© 2019 The Authors.

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Original Publication Citation

Long, M. H., Rheuban, J. E., McCorkle, D. C., Burdige, D. J., & Zimmerman, R. C. (2019). Closing the oxygen mass balance in shallow coastal ecosystems. Limnology and Oceanography, 64(6), 2694-2708. doi:10.1002/lno.11248


0000-0002-8859-7096 (Burdige), 0000-0002-9399-4264 (Zimmerman)