New Approaches to the Gulf Hypoxia Problem



Coastal water hypoxia, where dissolved oxygen is less than 2 milligrams per liter, is a global environmental problem [e.g., Diaz and Rosenberg, 2008]. It is largely associated with eutrophication, whereby nutrient inputs (nitrogen and phosphorous) to coastal waters lead to elevated primary production and accelerated rates of microbial respiration, which results in oxygen depletion.

Despite more than 25 years of monitoring [Rabalais et al., 2007] (see also Figure S1 in the online supplement to this Eos issue (, the relative importance of the various processes that control hypoxia in bottom waters of the northern Gulf of Mexico (GOM)–in particular, those beyond the direct influence of river plumes [Dagg et al., 2007; Bianchi et al., 2008, 2010, and references therein]—remains uncertain. For example, a prediction last June pronounced that the 2009 hypoxic area would be the largest on record (∼23,000 square kilo meters; see Files/2009