A strong spring and summer oxygen depletion is induced in nearshore bottom waters of the Louisiana continental shelf by density stratification and by the carbon flux from phytoplankton production, which, in turn, is related to the nutrient load of the Mississippi and Atchafalaya rivers. In an attempt to read the historical record of this shelf hypoxia during the past two centuries, we compared the stratigraphic signals of benthic foraminifera (as reflected in a relative-dominance index for two common species of Ammonia and Elphidium) in 210Pb-dated cores, and we found evidence of an overall rise in oxygen stress (in intensity or duration), especially in the past 100 yr. This implies a progressive increase in the influence of river-borne nutrients, particularly anthropogenically influenced nitrates. Judging by our results, foraminiferal indices based on appropriate species ratios should prove useful in testing hypotheses about long-term environmental stresses, including eutrophication and paleohypoxia, on other marine shelves.

First Page Preview

First page PDF preview
You do not currently have access to this article.