Estuaries and Coasts

Seasonal Composition of Benthic Macroinfauna Exposed to Hypoxia in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

Sep 1, 2009

Bottom-water hypoxia in the northern Gulf of Mexico has increased in severity (duration, frequency, and intensity) since the 1970s and has impacted the less-mobile benthos ever since. From September 2003 to October 2004, the macrobenthic density, species richness, community composition, and vertical distribution were studied at a frequently hypoxic station, C6B (28°52.10′ N and 90°28.00′ W). The polychaete-dominated community was approximately three times less dense and diverse in post-hypoxic months compared to pre-hypoxic months. The lowest oxygen concentrations in July 2004 did not significantly affect the infaunal community as predicted; rather, the response was observed 1 month later after a longer, low-oxygen exposure. The opportunistic, hypoxia-tolerant polychaete, Paraprionospio pinnata, population increased in July 2004 when other common species decreased, thereby maintaining pre-hypoxic densities. Determining the duration and severity of hypoxia prior to sampling rather than at the time of sampling helps to better understand benthic community responses to hypoxia. Full report here.