Relationships between nutrients and dissolved oxygen concentrations on the Texas-Louisiana shelf during summer of 2004
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Hypoxia (dissolved oxygen concentrations less than 1.4 ml/l) is a recurrent seasonal phenomenon on the Louisiana Shelf, caused by the combined effects of nutrient loading by the Mississippi and Atchafalaya River System (MARS), and density stratification. In 2004, three shelf wide cruises (in April, June and August) were conducted on the Louisiana Shelf to understand the mechanisms controlling hypoxia on the shelf, and examine the relationship between dissolved oxygen and nutrient concentrations during the hypoxic periods. The shelf was divided into three geographically separate zones: A (off the mouth of the Mississippi River), B (off the Terrebonne Bay) and C (off the mouth of the Atchafalaya). Each zone was different in terms of the physical and biochemical processes occurring there. In April, no hypoxia was observed on the shelf because of water column mixing by winds, even though high discharge occurred from the MARS. Nutrients were abundant in the surface waters but present only in little amounts at the bottom. In June, the water column was highly stratified. Because of the presence of upwelling favorable winds no vertical mixing occurred and caused extensive hypoxia on the shelf. Dissolved oxygen concentrations were negatively correlated with nutrients at the bottom of the water column. Nutrients were considerably higher at the bottom than at the surface (except for zone A, where high nutrients were seen even at the bottom), indicating remineralization below the pycnocline. Resuspension of organic material and remineralized nitrogen were sustaining hypoxia far from the river sources. In August, hypoxia was patchy on the Louisiana Shelf. Correlations between dissolved oxygen and nutrient concentration varied seasonally with highest correlations occurring during hypoxic conditions in June and August. The spatial distribution of nutrients and other oceanographic parameters, such as light transmission, fluorescence, and dissolved oxygen concentrations, indicate seasonal variability of biochemical processes that are related to physical processes that affect stratification.