Adverse impacts of hypoxia on aquatic invertebrates: A meta-analysis

Nika Galic, Tanner Hawkins, Valery E Forbes

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Hypoxia in aquatic ecosystems is often a result of anthropogenic activities, such as increased nutrient loading, originating from agriculture or urbanization, as well as global warming. Aquatic invertebrates are especially important in ecosystems due to their central role in secondary production and in dynamics of food webs. To better understand impacts of oxygen availability on key physiological processes in invertebrates, we conducted a literature search and synthesized the findings of published studies. We found 55 studies that quantified impacts of hypoxia on feeding, growth, reproduction and respiration rates in 54 different aquatic invertebrate species. We applied non-linear regression models which took into account phylogenetic correlation in the data set. Fitting Michaelis-Menten models, we found that there were differences in how different processes responded to a decline in oxygen availability. Respiration rates were halved at highest oxygen concentration (6.44 mg O2/L), followed by reproductive (3.66 mg O2/L), growth (1.77 mg O2/L) and, finally, feeding rates (0.77 mg O2/L). Our findings confirm observations that reproduction is highly sensitive as organisms quickly reduce their reproductive output when exposed to stressful conditions. As long as they have sufficient reserves, organisms continue growing even under stressful conditions, and we confirmed that growth was not very sensitive to a decline in oxygen availability. We discuss potential impacts of global warming on oxygen availability and demand for aquatic macroinvertebrates. Given that oxygen availability is declining in many ecosystems, we can expect that organismal responses will be increasingly compromised with potential consequences for ecosystems and the services they deliver.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)736-743
Number of pages8
JournalScience of the Total Environment
StatePublished - Feb 20 2019

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2018 Elsevier B.V.


  • Aquatic macroinvertebrates
  • Feeding
  • Growth
  • Hypoxia
  • Michaelis-Menten model
  • Reproduction
  • Respiration


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