The Coastal Bend has been plagued with drought conditions for many months now, and it is not only affecting us here on land. It is also affecting our marine life.
Researchers from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi are trying to get a better understanding of the problem, and how to fix it.
"When there is a drought, all the people, us, we are pressed for fresh water," said Larry Lloyd of the Conrad Blucher Institute at TAMUCC. "So is everything that lives in these bays, too."
Lately, the Nueces Bay has been in dire need of water. When it stops raining, the salinity levels of the water start to increase.
"Especially when there is a drought, as the water evaporates the salt stays in the bay, and so as more water evaporates the salinity concentration gets higher," Lloyd said.
When those levels get higher, that leads to the death of vegetation and many of the creatures that call the bay home; but that's not the only problem. Getting fresh water to the bay is also proving to be difficult, because it's in such an isolated place with its only source being the Nueces River.
"There is a dam up in the river that limits how much fresh water comes into the bay," Lloyd said.
That's where the researchers from TAMUCC come in. They help monitor the salinity levels out there on the bay. Their data is given to the City, and it's up to the City to decide when to release more water into the bay to help lower salinity levels.
"Everything that lives in this bay is dependent on the salinity," Lloyd said. "If it's too high, everything will die off."
Because of the severe drought, the City has not been able to pump out as much water as they would like; and this has already started to affect the organisms living in the bay.
"When they did make their report, they said that the bay is unhealthy right now because there has been a loss of keystones species," Lloyd said. "We have seen species like blue crabs not in high abundance as they have been."
That is why it's important for the researchers to keep an eye on the salinity, so that the City can best manage the bay.
"Even though we have gotten some rains recently, the salinity is still above average," Lloyd said.
Ultimately, the only thing that can fix the salinity level in the Nueces Bay is rain.
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