Mississippi River sustenance of brown shrimp (Farfantepenaeus aztecus) in Louisiana coastal waters


Fry, Brian
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Brown shrimp (Farfantepenaeus aztecus) are abundant along the Louisiana coast, a coastline that is heavily influenced by one of the world’s largest rivers, the Mississippi River. Stable carbon, nitrogen, and sulfur (CNS) isotopes of shrimp and their proventriculus (stomach) contents were assayed to trace riverine support of estuarine-dependent brown shrimp. Extensive inshore and offshore collections were made in the Louisiana coastal zone during 1999–2006 to document shrimp movement patterns across the bay and shelf region. Results showed an unexpectedly strong role for nursery areas in the river delta in supporting the offshore fishery, with about 46% of immigrants to offshore regions arriving from riverine marshes. Strong river influences also were evident offshore, where cluster analysis of combined CNS isotope data showed three regional station groups related to river inputs. Two nearer-river mid-shelf station groups showed isotope values indicating river fertilization and productivity responses in the benthic shrimp food web, and a deeper offshore station group to the south and west showed much less river influence. At several mid-shelf stations where hypoxia is common, shrimp were anomalously 15N depleted versus their diets, and this d15N difference or mismatch may be useful in monitoring shrimp movement responses to hypoxia.