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

Document NameEffect of seasonal hypoxia on the benthic foraminiferal community of the Louisiana inner continental shelf: The 20th century record.
Document AuthorPlaton, E.
Gupta, B.K. Sen
Rabalais, N.N.
Turner, R.E.
Short DescriptionMarine Micropaleontology 54: 263-283
CategorySubgroup 1: Characterization of the Cause(s) of Hypoxia
Publication Year2005

Abstract: A species census in sediment core samples reveals significant changes in the composition of the Louisiana-shelf benthic foraminiferal community in the past century; these changes can be explained by an increase in the severity of seasonal hypoxia in bottom waters. Agglutinated and porcelaneous orders living in water depths less than 60 m suffered a noticeable decline during this time. In particular, the genus Quinqueloculina was severely affected by the progression of hypoxia, and nearly disappeared from parts of the study area. In contrast, several hyaline taxa, especially Nonionella basiloba, Buliminella morgani, and Epistominella vitrea, tolerated the progressive oxygen depletion well. Results of cluster and principal components analyses of the foraminiferal assemblage data match the observed species distribution trends and indicate that seasonal hypoxia on the Louisiana shelf, related to eutrophication and water stratification, worsened in the past century, even near the outer edge of the present-day zone of spring and summer oxygen depletion. The temporal trends in the foraminiferal record correspond to that of fertilizer use in the U.S. and nitrogen loading in the Mississippi River, suggesting that the anthropogenic factor has been particularly strong in the development of coastal hypoxia since the early 1940s.