A preliminary mass balance model of primary productivity and dissolved oxygen in the Mississippi River Plume/Inner Gulf Shelf Region
A deterministic, mass balance model for phytoplankton, nutrients, and dissolved oxygen was applied to the Mississippi River Plume/Inner Gulf Shelf (MRP/IGS) region. The model was calibrated to a comprehensive set of field data collected during July 1990 at over 200 sampling stations in the northern Gulf of Mexico. The spatial domain of the model is represented by a three-dimensional, 21-segment water-column grid extending from the Mississippi River Delta west to the Louisiana-Texas border, and from the shoreline seaward to the 30–60 m bathymetric contours. Diagnostic analyses and numerical experiments were conducted with the calibrated model to better understand the environmental processes controlling primary productivity and dissolved oxygen dynamics in the MRP/IGS region. Underwater light attenuation appears relatively more important than nutrient limitation in controlling rates of primary productivity. Chemical-biological processes appear relatively more important than advective-dispersive transport processes in controlling bottom-water dissolved oxygen dynamics. Oxidation of carbonaceous material in the water column, phytoplankton respiration, and sediment oxygen demand all appear to contribute significantly to total oxygen depletion rates in bottom waters. The estimated contribution of sediment oxygen demand to total oxygen-depletion rates in bottom waters ranges from 22% to 30%. Primary productivity appears to be an important source of dissolved oxygen to bottom waters in the region of the Atchafalaya River discharge and further west along the Louisiana Inner Shelf. Dissolved oxygen concentrations appear very sensitive to changes in underwater light attenuation due to strong coupling between dissolved oxygen and primary productivity in bottom waters. The Louisiana Inner Shelf in the area of the Atchafalaya River discharge and further west to the Texas border appears to be characterized by significantly different light attenuation-depth-primary productivity relationships than the area immediately west of the Mississippi Delta. Nutrient remineralization in the water column appears to contribute significantly to maintaining chlorophyll concentrations on the Louisiana Inner Shelf.