Capstone Title

Hypoxia in the Northern Gulf of Mexico: A Literature Review of Causes, Impacts, and Management of Nutrient Loading in the Mississippi River-Atchafalaya River Basin (MARB) Watershed

Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

M.S. Coastal Zone Management

First Advisor

Donald McCorquodale

Second Advisor

Curtis Burney


During recent decades, coastal waters of North American have been polluted by river-borne nutrients. Coastal eutrophication is often caused by this pollution and results in increases in occurrence of harmful algal bloom, fish kills, and hypoxic zones. Due to the anthropogenic activities associated with the Mississippi River/Atchafalaya River basin region, it is necessary to better understand and implement proper management practices to reduce environmental impacts. The high level of nutrient influx into watersheds is increasing with expansion in population size and activities. Nutrient enrichment, or eutrophication, is an environmental consequence of both natural and anthropogenic activities. Human-induced hypoxia is often correlated with eutrophication occurring alongside watersheds with agricultural activities or large populations. Eutrophication, primarily from nitrogen and phosphorus, is greatly increased in areas of heavy agribusiness, such as the Mississippi River basin and Atchafalaya River basin. The Mississippi River physically and biologically dominates the continental shelf of the northern Gulf. The annual hypoxic zone in the northern Gulf of Mexico is a well-documented recurring economic and ecological threat. Significant research has connected nutrient loading in the contributing rivers to the hypoxic zone in the Gulf of Mexico.

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