Does local topography control hypoxia on the eastern Texas-Louisiana shelf?

Steven F. Dimarco, Piers Chapman, Nan Walker, Robert D. Hetland

Hypoxia of the northern Gulf of Mexico is a recurrent summer phenomenon that is principally driven by the combined effects of nutrient loading and stratification introduced onto the continental shelf mainly from effluents derived from the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers. Spatially detailed observations along and across the continental shelf in the central and western areas of coastal Louisiana, where hypoxia is most frequent and severe, reveal that the spatial variability (horizontal and vertical) of dissolved oxygen concentration is closely linked to physical processes including the spatial geometry of local topographic features. The along shelf spatial variability of dissolved oxygen is estimated to have a principal wavelength of approximately 50 km that is phase-locked with the location of three shallow shoals along the coastline. Based on a comparison with the historical record, the area between these shoals coincides with areas of more frequent hypoxia. These results may have important implications for coastal management strategies by indentifying physically controlled hotspots in the central and western Louisiana shelf where monitoring efforts can be more efficiently targeted.

Ref: Journal of Marine Systems, Vol. 80, No. 1, pp. 25-35, Feb. 1, 2010

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