Alternate Title

An Overview of the Northern Gulf of Mexico Ecosystem


The Gulf of Mexico is a large marine ecosystem (LME) bordered by the southern United States, Mexico, and Cuba. This general overview of its northern portion covers physiography, significant oceanographic features, the influence of major rivers and freshwater, biological productivity, and food web characteristics. It then describes the pelagic and benthic components of the major habitats: oceanic (continental slope and abyssal plain), continental shelf and bays, estuaries, and marshes, with descriptions of prominent processes and some dominant organisms. For each habitat several species from a variety of trophic levels are introduced and their general role in the ecosystem discussed. In 2010 the northern portion of the Gulf was the site of the largest U.S. marine oil spill in history and is now the focus of an unprecedented restoration effort. Successful restoration of the northern Gulf will depend on an integrated view of this LME and the forces that maintain and change it. This introduction to the northern Gulf marine ecosystem should be useful for policy makers, informing decisions on proposed restoration actions.