Estuaries and Coasts

Dinoflagellate Cysts Track Eutrophication in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

Nov 18, 2017

We examined organic-walled dinoflagellate cysts from one Pb-dated seddiment core and 39 surface sediment samples from te norther Gulf of Mexico to determine the relationship between nutrient enrichment and cyst assemblages in this region characterized by oxygen deficiency. The core spans from 1962 to 1997 and its sampling location is directly influenced by the Mississippi River plume. Surface sediments were collected in 2006, 2007, 2008, and 2014 and represent approximately 1 to 4 years of accumulation. A total of 57 cyst taxa were recorded, and four heterotrophic taxa in particular were found to increase in the top section (1986-1997) of the core—Brigantedinium spp., cysts of Archaeperidinium minutum, cysts of Polykrikos kofoidii, and Quinquecuspis concreta. These taxa show a similar increasing trend with variations in US fertilizer consumption and Mississippi River nitrate concentrations, both of which increased substantially in the 1970s and 1980s. The same four heterotrophic taxa dominated dinoflagellate cyst assemblages collected near the Mississippi River Bird's Foot Delta where nutrient concentrations were higher, especially in 2014. We propose that these cyst taxa can be used as indicators of eutrophication in the Gulf of Mexico. A canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) supports this proposition. The CCA identified sea-surface nutrient concentrations, sea-surface temperature, and sea-surface salinity as the most important factors influencing the cyst assemblages. In addition, cysts produced by the potentially toxic dinoflagellates Pyrodinium bahamense and Lingulodinium polyedrum were documented, but did not appear to have increased over the past 50 years. To view the full publication, click here.