Investigating the processes that affect Texas coastal hypoxia

2010-2013 - $95,150

Steven DiMarco
Department of Oceanography
Texas A&M University

Ruth Louise Mullins
Department of Oceanography
Texas A&M University

Abstract

Hypoxia is a well-studied and threatening condition in bottom coastal waters where dissolved oxygen concentrations fall below 1.4ml/l. In the northern Gulf of Mexico and south of Louisiana, hypoxia famously occurs seasonally and is principally caused by nutrient and freshwater flux onto the continental shelf by the Mississippi and Atchafalaya Rivers. However, preliminary analysis of historical water quality data over the last 25 years show that hypoxic events along the Texas coast can occur at any time of the year, persist for weeks, and are associated with the principal freshwater passes onto the continental shelf. Unlike the much larger Louisiana hypoxic region, there has not been an examination of the mechanisms and processes responsible for the formation, duration, and breakdown of Texas coastal hypoxia. We propose implementing a multifaceted research plan to investigate the processes responsible for Texas hypoxia which includes a) forming a single database of historical federal, state, and local water quality and hydrographic data, b) contributing state-of-the-art data from future concurrently funded federal and state projects, and c) conducting spatial and temporal statistical analyses from the database. The last piece is to develop educational and outreach components for educating the coastal community on the implications of long-term hypoxia and to assist coastal management in developing strategies to mitigate the effect on the Texas coastal environment.