Hypoxia on the Louisiana continental shelf is tied to nutrient Loading and freshwater stratification from the Mississippi River. Variations in the relative abundance of low-oxygen-tolerant benthic foraminifers in four sediment cores from the Louisiana shelf provide a proxy record of low-oxygen events. Core chronologies are obtained using 210Pb dating techniques. The foraminiferal data are consistent with previous studies indicating that the intensity of hypoxic events (oxygen <2 mg /L) has increased over the past 50 yr owing to the higher nutrient loading associated with the use of commercial fertilizer, and also reveal several low-oxygen events between A.D. 1817 and 1910, prior to the widespread use of fertilizer. The pre-1910 low-oxygen events are associated with high Mississippi River discharge rates, indicating that these low-oxygen episodes are related to natural variations in river drainage that enhance transport of nutrients and freshwater to the continental shelf. Our data show that the low-oxygen events of the past few decades were more extreme than any that occurred in the previous ???180 yr, and support the interpretation that the increased use of fertilizer has amplified an otherwise naturally occurring process. ?? 2005 Geological Society of America.