Alternate Title

Ecological History, Catastrophism, and Human Impact on the Mississippi/Alabama Continental Shelf and Associated Waters: A Review

Document Type



The Mississippi/Alabama continental shelf and associated coastal waters together form a complex ecological system of interrelated parts. The biological system of the area has become established during the period of sea level rise following the last continental glacial maximum about 18,000 years ago. Contemporary biological populations of the inshore waters are subject to episodic catastrophic events caused by exceptional cold fronts, flooding, major storms, hypoxia, red tide outbreaks, and major droughts. Most of these events are not known to affect the shelf populations directly, but indirect effects through food chain disruptions are likely. Loop Current intrusions and entrainment of deep Gulf waters could directly impact the shelf species. Imposed upon these events are various human intrusions which have severely reduced the quality and quantity of inshore habitats. Increase in commercial and recreational fishing pressure in the inside waters and on the continental shelf during the past two decades has been accompanied by dramatic decline in populations of demersal and pelagic fish species. In order to be able to manage resources of the area successfully, there is an urgent need to understand the natural functioning of the entire complex ecological system.

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