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Chesapeake Bay Dead Zones Show Marine Worm Species Shifts

Published on: 04/01/2014
Research Area(s): Coastal Change
Primary Contact(s): alan.lewitus@noaa.gov

A recent NCCOS-sponsored study conducted by the University of Maryland’s Center for Environmental Science has found a hypoxia-induced shift in marine worm communities in Chesapeake Bay to ones made up of species that are extremely adaptable to stressful conditions like hypoxia (low dissolved oxygen).

The team also found that the magnitude of the marine worm response to hypoxia is species specific and dissolved oxygen is the ‘master variable’ controlling long-term trends in this worm community. Hypoxia is considered an environmental stressor associated with eutrophic (nutrient-enriched) environments. Chesapeake Bay is a eutrophic estuary where seasonal hypoxia has been increasing since the early 1950s.

This study supports previous NCCOS-funded work that examined hypoxic zones (“dead zones”) in the bay and confirms the validity of current management approaches that use these taxa as water quality indicator species.

For more information, contact Alan.Lewitus@noaa.gov.

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