U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
EPA Science Advisory Board
Background Information


Document NameSimulated responses of the Gulf of Mexico hypoxia to variations in climate and anthropogenic nutrient loading
Document AuthorJustić, D.
Rabalais, N.N.
Turner, R.E.
Short DescriptionJournal of Marine Systems, 42, 115-126
CategorySubgroup 1: Characterization of the Cause(s) of Hypoxia
Publication Year2003
Text:

Abstract: A mathematical model was used to simulate monthly responses of the Gulf of Mexico hypoxia to variations in climate and anthropogenic nutrient loading over a 45-year period. We examined six hypothetical future scenarios that are based on observed and projected changes in the Mississippi River discharge, Mississippi River nitrate concentrations, and ambient water temperatures. In particular, we investigated the implications of a 30% decrease in the Mississippi River nitrogen flux, which was recently proposed by the Mississippi River Watershed/Gulf of Mexico Hypoxia Task Force as a measure to reduce the size of the hypoxic zone. Model simulations suggest that the frequency of hypoxia in the northern Gulf of Mexico is highly sensitive to variations in riverine nitrate flux, but also to variations in freshwater discharge and ambient water temperatures. A 30% decrease in the Mississippi River nitrate flux, for example, would reduce the frequency of hypoxia by 37%. Nevertheless, a 20% increase the Mississippi River discharge, which may occur under some climate change scenarios, would produce an increase in the frequency of hypoxia of the same magnitude. Thus, if the potential climatic variations are taken into account, a 30% decrease in the nitrogen flux of the Mississippi River may not be sufficient to accomplish the proposed hypoxia management goal.