Oxygen concentrations in both the open ocean and coastal waters have declined by 2-5% since at least the middle of the 20th century.
This is one of the most important changes occurring in an ocean becoming increasingly modified by human activities, with raised water temperatures, carbon dioxide content and nutrient inputs.
Through this, humans are altering the abundances and distributions of marine species but the decline in oxygen could pose a new set of threats to marine life.
Writing in Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, scientists present support for the theory that marine invertebrates with larger body size are generally more sensitive to reductions in oxygen than smaller animals, and so will be more sensitive to future global climate change.
It is widely believed that the occurrence of gigantic species in polar waters is made possible by the fact that there is more oxygen dissolved in ice cold water than in the warmer waters of temperate and tropic regions.
So as our ocean warms and oxygen decreases, it has been suggested that such oxygen limitation will have a greater effect on larger than smaller marine invertebrates and fish.
The study was conducted by John Spicer, Professor of Marine Zoology at the University of Plymouth, and Dr Simon Morley, an Ecophysiologist with the British Antarctic Survey (BAS).
Source: The complex fate of Antarctic species in the face of a changing climate