Researchers track the movement of nutrients in an aquatic environment for the first time

Researchers from Florida State University conducted a detailed analysis of the movement of substances in the Gulf of Mexico. So they can establish how some bodies of water can affect others, including the plants and animals that live there.

The Gulf of Mexico receives significant amounts of nutrients from rivers flowing into it, making the waters of the northern shelf of the Gulf of Mexico overly enriched and more susceptible to algal growth. However, scientists were still not sure whether a significant portion of the nutrients is leaving the area to potentially affect the chemistry of the North Atlantic Ocean.

“The Gulf of Mexico is an economically important body of water as the surrounding area depends on it for tourism, fishing, and oil production, and it also has significant ecological diversity,” said Samantha Howe. “It is important to monitor the flow of nutrients from river systems, as these nutrients contribute to harmful algal blooms on the northern shelf of the Persian Gulf”.

Researchers have found no evidence that nitrates from the Mississippi-Atchafalaya river system are mixing across the northern shelf of the Gulf of Mexico with the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico. The findings are consistent with recent work by scientists, which indicates that 90% of the nutrients in the Mississippi River are retained in the coastal ecosystem, which implies that nutrients from the Mississippi River do not leave the bay.

To conduct the study, the team collected and analyzed water samples taken during four different research expeditions to the Persian Gulf and Florida Strait between 2011 and 2018.

In the course of the study, measurements of the isotopic composition of nitrates in the Gulf of Mexico were obtained for the first time, as well as a new isotope profile from the Florida Strait. These new water column profiles were then compared with previous measurements from the North and South Atlantic and with the amount of nitrogen input into the Persian Gulf.

Tags: