A suite of inorganic and organic geochemical tracers and a low-oxygen tolerant benthic faunal index ('PEB') were measured in a 14C-dated 2+??m long gravity core collected on the Louisiana shelf adjacent to the Mississippi River delta to study potential millennium-scale low-oxygen events. Periodic down-core excursions in the PEB index throughout the core suggest recurring, natural bottom water low-oxygen events that extend back ??? 1000??14C years. Select trace element and biomarker distributions in these same sediments were examined as potential tracers of past hypoxic events and to help distinguish between marine versus terrestrial processes involved in organic carbon production. In discrete sediment horizons where the PEB index was elevated, redox-sensitive vanadium concentrations were consistently depleted, excursions in sedimentary ??13C suggest periodic, preferential terrestrial inputs, and the concentrations of two sterol biomarkers (sitosterol and ??-stigmasterol) also showed concurrent enrichments. If the PEB index successfully records ??? 1000??14C year-scale low-oxygen events, then the distribution of these geochemical tracers can be interpreted to corroborate the view that naturally occurring low-oxygen bottom water conditions have existed on the inner Louisiana continental shelf, not only in recent times, but also over at least the last 1000??14C years. These data support the general hypothesis that historic, low-oxygen bottom water conditions on the Louisiana shelf are likely tied to periods of increased fluvial discharge and associated wetland export in the absence of modern river levees. Enhanced river discharge and associated material export would both stimulate enhanced in situ organic carbon production and foster water column stratification. Such periodic elevated river flows during the last millennium can be linked to climate fluctuations and tropical storm activity. ?? 2008 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.
Additional Publication Details
A 1000-year sediment record of recurring hypoxia off the Mississippi River: The potential role of terrestrially-derived organic matter inputs