An ecosystem analysis of oil and gas development on the Texas - Louisiana continental shelf.
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The Texas-Louisiana shelf ecosystem in the Gulf of Mexico is described in terms of its physiographic, oceanographic, and biological characteristics and as a recipient of oil and gas development activities and effluents. The northeast sector of the ecosystem is influenced by Mississippi River discharge, whereas high-salinity Carribean water affects the southwest sector. Soft- bottom communities are prominent, characterized by economically valuable penaeid shrimps. The coral reef communities are more important than would be normally assumed. Pelagic communities are little known and harbor only a few commercially valuable species. It is surmised that much of the primary productivity from the pelagic community is used by benthic communities. Observed effects of oil and gas development activities and effluents are described. Data from most field studies indicate that direct effects are limited in space, but the effects over time are unknown. Particular concern is expressed relative to increased organic loading of the system and the apparently related low dissolved oxygen levels characteristic of specific sites during the warm seasons. Future research should be directed towards defining key processes governing the ecosystem, with modeling workshops serving as the focus for these research and monitoring programs.