Geoffrey Johnson, doctoral student in Geography and Environmental Studies, is studying how climate change is affecting ocean upwelling and therefore oxygen levels in the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve near Charleston, Oregon. A recent article he co-published in the journal Estuaries and Coasts was featured in a recent issue of AroundtheO!
In recent summers, such as 2002 and 2006, areas along the Oregon coast have endured increasing upwelling in which cold, salty, nutrient-rich, low oxygen water rises from the deep ocean. While upwelling serves up nutrients that boost fishing conditions, as that water moves into the estuaries the contents can result in a condition known as hypoxia.
“Those differences are likely to become more intense as freshwater feeding the slough decreases amid hotter, longer summers and is replaced by a noted increase in upwelling,” said Johnson, a native of Eugene. “This upwelling does create an amazing fishery off the coast, which is good. But in strong upwelling events, that low-dissolved-oxygen water suffocates aquatic organisms. Fish can escape. Bottom dwellers cannot.”