Coastal embayments located downwind of large rivers under an upwelling-favorable wind are prone to develop low-oxygen or hypoxic conditions in their bottom water. One such embayment is Mirs Bay, off the Guangdong coast, which is affected by upwelling and the Pearl River Estuary (PRE) plume during summer. The relative importance of physical and biochemical processes on the interannual variability of hypoxia in Mirs Bay and its adjacent waters was investigated using statistical analyses of monthly hydrographic and water quality monitoring data from 2001 to 2015. The results reveal that the southwesterly wind duration and the PRE river discharge together explain 49% of the interannual variability in the size of the hypoxic area, whereas inclusion of the nutrient concentrations inside Mirs Bay and phytoplankton on the shelf explains 75% of the interannual variability in the size of the hypoxic area. This finding suggests that the interannual variability of hypoxia in Mirs Bay is regulated by coupled physical and biochemical processes. Increase of the hypoxic area under a longer-lasting southwesterly wind is caused by increased stratification, extended bottom water residence time, and onshore transport of a low-oxygen water mass induced by stable upwelling. In contrast, a reduction in the size of the hypoxic area may be attributed to a decrease in the surface water residence time of the particulate organic matter outside Mirs Bay due to increased discharge from the PRE. The results also show that the effects of allochthonous particulate organic matter outside Mirs Bay on bottom hypoxia cannot be neglected.
Ocean Dynamics – Springer Journals
Published: Jun 7, 2018
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