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Temporal dynamics of dissolved oxygen in a floating–leaved macrophyte bed


Nina Caraco, Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies, Millbrook, NY 12545, U.S.A. E-mail:


1. Oxygen concentrations in shallow vegetated areas of aquatic systems can be extremely dynamic. In these waters, characterizing the average oxygen content or frequency of low oxygen events (hypoxia) may require high frequency measurements that span seasons and even years. In this study, moored sondes were used to collect 15-min interval dissolved oxygen (DO) readings in an embayment of the tidal Hudson River with dense coverage by an invasive floating leaved plant (Trapa natans) and in adjacent open waters. Measurements were made from late spring to summer over a 2-year period (2005, 2006).

2. Oxygen concentrations were far more dynamic in the vegetated embayment than in the adjacent open waters and while hypoxic conditions never occurred in the open waters, they occurred frequently in the vegetated site. Overall the vegetated site was hypoxic (DO < 2.5 mg L−1) 30% of the time and had an average oxygen concentration of 5.1 mg L−1. Oxygen concentration was significantly (P < 0.0001, anova) related to season, year and tide. Low tide periods during summer of 2006 had the lowest average oxygen concentration and the highest frequency of hypoxia.

3. The greater hypoxia in summer than spring is related to changes in plant morphology. In the spring and early summer when plants are submersed hypoxia occurs at lower frequency and duration than in the summer when dense floating vegetation covers the water. The tidal pattern in oxygen is related to hydrologic exchange with the non-vegetated open waters. Year-to-year variation may be related to relatively small changes in plant biomass between years.

4. Oxygen concentrations in aquatic systems can be critical to habitat quality and can have cascading impacts on redox sensitive nutrient and metal cycling. For some systems with dynamic oxygen patterns neither weekly spot sampling nor short-duration, high-frequency measurements may be sufficient to characterize oxygen conditions of the system.