This project involves rapid-response research into the effects of Hurricane Harvey on the Mission-Aransas estuary system in south Texas. Hurricane Harvey passed directly over this region on August 25-26, 2017. Because these waters are the site of the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve (MANERR), the investigators have a history of data from before the storm with which to compare the data they will collect. They proposed to investigate the effect of the passage of the storm on carbon and nitrogen cycling, and thus the ecosystem, in the waters and sediments of Copano Bay and Aransas Bay. Their results will be important to understanding coastal processes both in general and in response to extreme events.
The investigators pose two hypotheses, which can be summarized broadly as 1) inputs of nutrients from river flooding will stimulate algal blooms in the estuary and 2) changes in sediment grain size distribution will affect sediment nitrogen cycling. They will collect water samples for nutrients, pigments, lipids, bulk carbon, and carbon isotope analyses, together with standard water quality parameters using a YSI Sonde (salinity, temperature, pH, chlorophyll a, dissolved oxygen and turbidity) at the five System Wide Monitoring Program sites of the MANERR on a biweekly to monthly basis. Sediment samples will be collected at all sites in the fall of 2017 and examined for grain size, pigments, carbon and nitrogen content, carbon isotopes, pigments, and lipids. The results will be used, in combination from data collected earlier this year, to examine physical, chemical, and biological responses to this major event. The project will support a graduate student research assistant and three undergraduate student researchers. Communication with the public will occur through well-established and effective programs at the Mission-Aransas NERR and the University of Texas Marine Science Institute.