Friday November 3, 2023


A deficiency or absence of oxygen in Earth’s bodies of water could increase greenhouse gas emissions, mobilize metal toxins, and suffocate oxygen-breathing aquatic life. Although deoxygenation is relatively common in bodies like lakes and oceans, new research in Nature Climate Change reports that rivers across the United States and central Europe are warming up and losing oxygen even more rapidly than oceans.

Scientists trained a deep learning model to fill in the gaps of 4 decades of water quality and temperature records collected from 796 rivers. This model allowed them to reconstruct trends that would otherwise be impossible to pick out in the hodgepodge of historical data. Running their model into the future, the researchers predict that oxygen levels will sink between 1.5 and 2.5 times faster than they have over the past 40 years.

“The rate is small, but you’re changing your baseline in a way that can cause extremes to become more frequent,” said aquatic ecosystem ecologist Joanna Blaszczak of the University of Nevada, Reno, who was not involved in the study. “And those extremes have many implications—both biogeochemical and for aquatic communities.”

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