NOAA Awards First Installment of $548,273 Grant to University of Delaware to Study Hypoxia Impact on Estuarine Ecosystems
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration awarded the University of Delaware a $206,758 grant to study the impact of hypoxia on fish habitat quality in the coastal bays of Delaware. This award is the first installment of a three-year, $548,273 grant from NOAA.
The grant supports research to study how diel-cycling hypoxia, or short term hypoxia that lasts for hours, affects fish populations such as juvenile summer flounder and weakfish which use the coastal bays for vital estuarine nursery habitat. Researchers plan to collect data, calibrate and integrate models in order to assess the impact of continued water quality decline on habitat quality and fish behavior, feeding and distribution. The project will provide vital information to living resources management by providing a direct link between nutrient and other constituents discharged to a water body and impacts to fish production and health. This research will be conducted in collaboration with scientists from the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.
Hypoxia in aquatic systems refers to waters where the dissolved oxygen concentration is below two milligrams per liter. Most organisms avoid, or become physiologically stressed in, waters with oxygen below this concentration. While hypoxia can occur naturally, it is often a symptom of environments stressed by human impacts (e.g. nutrient enrichment). Over half of U.S. estuaries experience natural or human-induced hypoxic conditions at some time each year and evidence suggests that the frequency and duration of hypoxic events have increased. These hypoxic events can have large impacts on the affected ecosystems and have associated economic impacts.