Gulf of Mexico Ecosystems & Hypoxia Assessment (NGOMEX)
The northern portion of the Gulf of Mexico ecosystem, which contains almost half of the nation's coastal wetlands and supports commercial and recreational fisheries which generate $2.8 billion annually, has undergone profound changes due to nutrient enrichment of Mississippi River water from land-based sources. This over-enrichment of nutrients stimulates the development of seasonal hypoxia (very low oxygen waters) over the Louisiana/Texas continental shelf in summer and results in the largest recurring hypoxic zone in the United States. In 2008, the hypoxic zone (or “Dead Zone”) was the second largest on record, encompassing more than 8,000 square miles, an area roughly the size of Massachusetts. In recent years the dead zone size has varied but is still larger than the Mississippi River Gulf of Mexico Watershed Nutrient Task Force reduction goal of 5,000 square kilometers. Hypoxic waters can cause habitat loss, stress and even death to marine organisms; affecting commercial harvests and the health of impacted ecosystems.
Size of bottom-water hypoxia in mid-summer
Data source: Nancy N. Rabalais, LUMCON, and R. Eugene Turner, LSU
Funding sources: NOAA Center for Sponsored Coastal Ocean Research and U.S. EPA Gulf of Mexico Program
Building on nearly 25 years of research, the NGOMEX program addresses the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico through the funding of multi-year, interdisciplinary research projects. Current studies are documenting the dynamics of the hypoxic zone over the Louisiana continental shelf and helping to better define the biological, chemical, and physical processes that influence hypoxic zone development and determine its extent, and impacts on fisheries.