Exploring the occurrence of and explanations for nighttime spikes in dissolved oxygen across coral reef environments

Primary producers release oxygen as the by-product of photosynthetic light reactions during the day. However, a prevalent, globally-occurring nighttime spike in dissolved oxygen in the absence of light challenges the traditional assumption that biological oxygen production is limited to daylight hours, particularly in tropical coral reefs. Here we show: 1) the widespread nature of this phenomenon, 2) its reproducibility across tropical marine ecosystems, 3) the influence of biotic and abiotic factors on this phenomenon across numerous datasets, and 4) the observation of nighttime oxygen spikes in vitro from incubations of coral reef benthic organisms. The data from this study demonstrate that in addition to physical forcing, biological processes are likely responsible for increasing dissolved oxygen at night. Additionally, we demonstrate an association between these nighttime oxygen spikes and measures of both net community calcification and net community production. These results suggest that nighttime oxygen spikes are likely a biological response associated with increased respiration and are most prominent in communities dominated by calcifying organisms.

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