Title

A Review of Water Column Processes Influencing Hypoxia In the Northern Gulf of Mexico

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

10-1-2007

Department

Marine Science

Abstract

In this review, we use data from field measurements of biogeochemical processes and cycles in the Mississippi River plume and in other shelf regions of the northern Gulf of Mexico to determine plume contributions to coastal hypoxia. We briefly review pertinent findings from these process studies, review recent mechanistic models that synthesize these processes to address hypoxia-related issues, and reinterpret current understanding in the context of these mechanistic models. Some of our conclusions are that both nitrogen and phosphorus are sometimes limiting to phytoplankton growth; respiration is the main fate of fixed carbon in the plume, implying that recycling is the main fate of nitrogen; decreasing the river nitrate loading results in less than a 1:1 decrease in organic matter sinking from the plume; and sedimenting organic matter from the Mississippi River plume can only fuel about 23% of observed coastal hypoxia, suggesting significant contributions from the Atchafalaya River and, possibly, coastal wedands. We also identify gaps in our knowledge about controls on hypoxia, and indicate that some reinterpretation of our basic assumptions about this system is required. There are clear needs for improved information on the sources, rates, and locations of organic matter sedimentation; for further investigation of internal biogeochemical processes and cycling; for improved understanding of the rates of oxygen diffusion across the pycnocline; for identification and quantification of other sources of organic matter fueling hypoxia or other mechanisms by which Mississippi River derived organic matter fuels hypoxia; and for the development of a fully coupled physical-biogeochemical model.

Publication Title

Estuaries and Coasts

Volume

30

Issue

5

First Page

735

Last Page

752