Several years ago, concerned citizens from the City of Rockport approached Mission-Aransas NERR about concerns of water quality and sea grass in a small, shallow bay directly adjacent to the Reserve, called Little Bay. The bay is connected to Aransas Bay through two outlets to the north and east. Little Bay also serves as the primary recipient of storm water drainage from the town of Rockport through Tule Creek and multiple storm water outfalls as well as runoff from the adjacent subdivision, Key Allegro. The seagrass community in Little Bay is a monoculture of Haloudle wrightii. Historically the extent of seagrass beds in the bay has fluctuated, but the seagrass abundance remained dense. In the past 15 years, seagrass abundance has been steadily declining, especially in the last five, and is now extremely sparse. Numerous local communities concerned about the loss of seagrass partnered to commission Mission-Aransas NERR and the University of Texas Marine Science Institute to study the possible causes of this decline. A report was completed in 2010 assessing reasons for this decline (Dunton and Wilson, 2010). The current commissioned study analyzes indicators of seagrass condition, including water quality. This project is generously supported by the City of Rockport, Aransas County, and Aransas County Navigation District.
We established a continuous monitoring study to measure standard water quality parameters including temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and pH, as well as annual measurements of seagrass. The water quality station was setup and conducted using the same methods as the Mission-Aransas NERR’s System Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) for comparison purposes.
How is the data translated
In 2012, the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve proposed the idea of establishing a “Report Card” to monitor the long-term health of Little Bay. The Little Bay Report Card includes measurements of water quality and is based on the following parameters: temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen, turbidity, and chlorophyll. Water quality is compared to measurements taken in Aransas Bay. This comparison with Aransas Bay will be used to provide a “grade” for each parameter and will be factored into an annual score. Aransas Bay is generally regarded as a “healthy” bay with good water quality and healthy habitats. The information provided in this report includes a quarterly review of all water quality parameters, including nutrients. The information presented is a summary of water quality data collected by the Mission-Aransas Reserve. The Mission-Aransas Reserve manages five data-logging stations throughout the estuary and one in Little Bay. Each site contains a data logger that collects water quality information at 15 minutes intervals throughout the year. The data for five stations, not including Little Bay, are available online at: NERR Data.