The Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts (CPA) contracted with Texas A&M University – Corpus Christi in 2019 to conduct research to: (1) inform the development of effective conservation strategies for endangered sea turtles and (2) explore opportunities for avian conservation relative to potential impacts from flooding and sea rise by implementing a multi-disciplinary ecosystem assessment of Matagorda Bay.
Researchers will compile, collect and analyze abiotic and biotic data to provide comprehensive results to Matagorda Bay stakeholders. Benthic mapping along segments of open water will identify important estuarine habitats, including oyster reefs and seagrass beds, and establish a baseline habitat condition. Mapping will be closely associated with water quality and biological sampling to gather insight on the ecological processes taking place in the bay.
Matagorda Bay hosts several species of endangered and threatened sea turtles that forage on jellyfish, crab and seagrasses sheltered in its shallow waters. Researchers will capture, tag and track sea turtle movement to determine how they utilize available resources. Tissue samples will fit sea turtles into the context of a larger food web analysis. By collecting sea turtle, fish and plant tissues, researchers hope to evaluate energy flow pathways within the bay ecosystem.
Finally, researchers will collect data necessary to establish baseline conditions of marsh productivity. Marshes play a fundamental role in bay health. The productivity of these habitats influences the abundance and diversity of the marine and avian life that enrich the bay ecosystem.