Seasonal composition of benthic macroinfauna exposed to hypoxia in the northern Gulf of Mexico

  • Baustian M
  • Rabalais N
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Abstract

Abstract  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.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Benthos
  • Density
  • Diversity
  • Hypoxia
  • Northern Gulf of Mexico

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