Spatiotemporal Analysis of Ecosystem Degradation in a Gulf of Mexico Estuary System
Type of DegreeMaster's Thesis
Crop Soils and Environmental Sciences
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Coastal estuaries are a vital resource that provide many environmental and socioeconomic benefits. Despite their value, increased anthropogenic influence has resulted in ecosystem degradation due to eutrophication in coastal estuaries. This study utilizes paleolimnological techniques and spatial analysis to determine the history and extent of anthropogenic impact in a Gulf of Mexico estuary system. The results indicate a significant increase in nutrient, element, and photopigment deposition with increasing anthropogenic influence. Eutrophication was driven by a multiplicity of drivers, but nutrient loading and hydrologic alteration have had the greatest effect on primary producer ecology. Spatial analysis suggests sediment nutrient concentrations are heavily influenced by nearby land-use and point source pollution although variables tied to freshwater inflow such as flow rate, dissolved organic carbon, and salinity appear to have a greater impact on the spatial distribution of phytoplankton communities and abundance.