Advancing knowledge of anoxic systems of the World Ocean



Life on Earth emerged under anaerobic conditions. Many fundamental biochemical and metabolic pathways evolved before the atmosphere contained oxygen. At present, anaerobic (anoxic) conditions in marine milieu are generally restricted to sediments and to basins isolated from oxygenated deep-sea circulation. Enhanced oxygen consumption by organic matter decomposition and slow downward mixing and diffusion of dissolved oxygen from the surface waters can lead to oxygen deficiency in the water column in highly productive waters, forming the Oxygen Minimum Zone (OMZ). Bottom waters of coastal upwelling regions are frequently exposed to anaerobic conditions owing to extremely high primary productivity. In the past, such conditions in the water column may have developed more readily; for example, in the mid-Cretaceous.