Eddies reduce denitrification and compress habitats in the Arabian Sea

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The combination of high biological production and weak oceanic ventilation in regions, such as the northern Indian Ocean and the eastern Pacific and Atlantic, cause large-scale oxygen minimum zones (OMZs) that profoundly affect marine habitats and alter key biogeochemical cycles. Here we investigate the effects of eddies on the Arabian Sea OMZ—the world's thickest—using a suite of regional model simulations with increasing horizontal resolution. We find that isopycnal eddy transport of oxygen to the OMZ region limits the extent of suboxia so reducing denitrification, increasing the supply of nitrate to the surface, and thereby enhancing biological production. That same enhanced production generates more organic matter in the water column, amplifying oxygen consumption below the euphotic zone, thus increasing the extent of hypoxia. Eddy-driven ventilation likely plays a similar role in other low-oxygen regions and thus may be crucial in shaping marine habitats and modulating the large-scale marine nitrogen cycle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9148-9156
Number of pages9
JournalGeophysical Research Letters
Issue number17
StatePublished - Sep 16 2016


  • denitrification
  • mesoscale eddies
  • oxygen minimum zone

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geophysics
  • General Earth and Planetary Sciences


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