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Research & Monitoring

Status and Trends: LISS Environmental Indicators

Area of Hypoxia

LISS Water Quality Monitoring Program, CTDEEP

Area of Hypoxia Severity (sq. miles)
Hypoxia Severely Hypoxic Anoxia
1987 309 no data no data
1988 251 no data no data
1989 328 no data no data
1990 174 no data no data
1991 122   36  0
1992 80    7  0
1993 202    9  1
1994 393 212 28
1995 305   71 18
1996 220   27 4
1997 30   2 0
1998 168  43 7
1999 121  52 7
2000 173  52 0
2001 133  32 0
2002 130  61 42
2003 345 186 62
2004 202   62 38
2005 177   95 28
2006 199   61 18
2007 162   30   0
2008 180.1   71 40
2009 169.1   19   0
2010 101.1   47   0
2011 130.3   35   0
2012 288.5   67 18
2013 80.7   33   0
2014 87   20   0
2015 38.3    0   0
2016 197.45  40.2   0

WHAT IS HYPOXIA?

Hypoxia is a condition that occurs in bodies of water as dissolved oxygen concentrations decrease to levels where organisms become physically stressed and ultimately cannot survive. Prolonged hypoxic conditions result in severe die-offs of animals that are unable to move out of hypoxic waters, mass migrations of mobile animals, changes in water chemistry and other adverse ecological effects. The Long Island Sound Study defines hypoxia as waters with dissolved oxygen concentrations less than 3 mg/L.

For more information on hypoxia and efforts to reduce its occurrence in Long Island Sound visit: http://longislandsoundstudy.net/about/our-mission/management-plan/hypoxia/

WHAT IS severely HYPOXIc?

Moderate to severe hypoxia is a condition in which dissolved oxygen concentrations in a body of water are less than 2 mg/L.

WHAT IS ANOXIA?

Anoxia is typically defined as the complete lack of oxygen. LISS, however, defines anoxia as oxygen concentrations below 1 mg/L because this is the threshold below which most fish cannot survive even for a short period of time.

WHAT DOES THIS INDICATE?

The area of hypoxia in Long Island Sound refers to the number of square miles in which dissolved oxygen concentrations were less than 3 mg/L over the course of a single year. Hypoxia is most common during summer months, when waters are stratified (preventing mixing of oxygen from the surface to the bottom) and temperatures are higher (so less oxygen stays in the dissolved form in the water). The area of hypoxia is calculated from measurements taken every other week during summer months as part of the Long Island Sound Study Water Quality monitoring program.

STATUS

The maximum area of hypoxia averaged 183 square miles from 1987 to 2016.  The summers of 2012 and 2016  were relatively severe years, while 2013-2015 had comparatively very mild hypoxia. While there is a general trend of improvement over the last decade, the stark difference between 2012 and 2016 and 2013-2015 highlights the high amount of interannual variability in hypoxia caused by factors such as temperature, wind, and precipitation.

40 square miles of the Sound were affected by moderate to severe hypoxia in 2016, relative to the 1991-2016 average of 53 square miles.

Anoxia has not been detected during the summer from 2013-2016, but affected 18 square miles of the Sound in 2012. While the overall average area of anoxia is 11.96 square miles, the variability in area of anoxia from year to year can be quite high. No anoxia was detected in the Sound during 13 of the last 26 years, but the area affected by anoxia has been as high as 61.7 square miles (in 2003).

For reference, the entire area of Long Island Sound is about 1,300 square miles.

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