Effects on Benthic Macrofauna from Pumped Flows to Rincon Bayou




Montagna, Paul A.
Chaloupka, Crystal
Del Rosario, Elizabeth
Gordon, Amanda
Turner, Evan L.


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Decreased inflow due to damming of the Nueces and Frio rivers has resulted in increasing salinity in Nueces Bay and caused Rincon Bayou to become a reverse estuary disturbing the overall hydrology of the adjacent Corpus Christi Bay. Adaptive management to perform hydrological restoration began in 1994 and continues today. The objectives of the present study are to determine to what extent salinity fluctuates within Rincon Bayou and what effects these fluctuations have on estuary health. Benthic infauna are ideal indicators of ecological effects because of their relative immobility and longevity in contrast with plankton of comparable size. Nearly all past studies focused on benthic infauna, here we add measurements of benthic epifauna, which are larger, more mobile invertebrates and represent a higher trophic level. Archived samples were analyzed as well as new samples collected from the upper Rincon Bayou near Corpus Christi, TX. For macroinfaunal, one historical station (C) was sampled biweekly and two historical stations (F and G) were sampled quarterly. For epifauna, all three stations were sampled biweekly. Conductivity, temperature, and salinity were monitored continuously. Additional water column measurements were taken during sampling events. Macrofauna and epifauna biomass, abundance, and diversity were recorded and analyzed. High inflow reduces salinity and introduces nutrients. Large and haphazard salinity fluctuations result in an often disturbed system populated by pioneer species, such as chironomid larvae and the polychaete Streblospio benedicti, during especially low and high salinity periods. Epifaunal organisms are mobile and capable of escaping unsuitable conditions, so the more immediate results of fluctuations in water quality is the lack of higher trophic marine organisms following pumping events. Results of time lags indicated that variance in diversity variables in response to changes in salinities occurred within the first few weeks after pumping. Immediate responses to salinity were not identified in abundance and biomass. Positive relationships between abundance and biomass, in response to salinity fluctuations, were evident after 6 to 8 weeks. The results of the infaunal and epifaunal analyses indicate that further changes need to be made to the Rincon Bayou restoration and management programs in order to reestablish a reasonably undisturbed ecosystem.






Montagna, P.A., C. Chaloupka, E. DelRosario, A. Gordon, and E.L. Turner. 2016. Effects on Benthic Macrofauna from Pumped Flows to Rincon Bayou. Final Report to the Coastal Bend Bays & Estuaries Program for Project # 1617, CBBEP Publication – 111. Harte Research Institute, Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Corpus Christi, Texas, 60 pp.