Project to Develop Hypoxia Forecasting Models for Chesapeake, Delaware Bays

The University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science recently received $330,000 from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), funding part of an $1.8 million project to help resource managers analyze and predict how nutrient loading and climatic factors affect conditions in Chesapeake Bay and Delaware inland bays.

"Areas of low dissolved oxygen, hypoxia, are an increasing threat to the health of our waterways," said John H. Dunnigan, NOAA's assistant administrator for the National Ocean Service. "We hope this research on hypoxia issues will provide new insights into its stimulants, and how we, as coastal stewards, can better manage and mitigate its effects."

More than half of U.S. estuaries experience natural or human-induced hypoxia each year. The deep waters of the main Chesapeake Bay stem, as well as some shallow tributaries, become hypoxic every summer. Delaware Bay is a more shallow, well-mixed estuary that also experiences hypoxia, with shorter periods than the Chesapeake Bay.

Hypoxia in aquatic systems refers to waters where the dissolved oxygen concentrations are below 25 percent of their capacity. While hypoxia can occur naturally, it often is a symptom of environments stressed by human impacts, such as nutrient runoff from nonpoint sources of pollution. Fish kills, oyster die-offs and ecosystem shifts, such as increases in jellyfish, have been attributed to low-dissolved oxygen stress as well as changes in climate.

NOAA's Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research (CSCOR) Coastal Hypoxia Research Program provides research and modeling tools used by coastal resource managers to assess alternatives for preventing or lessening the effects of hypoxia on coastal ecosystems. CSCOR provided $10 million in competitive grants in 2007.

For more information, contact NOAA at

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