Pre-nourishment Beach Benthic Recovery - South Padre Island

Barrier island beaches are the first line of defense against tropical systems along the Gulf of Mexico shoreline. Coastal development, even with restrictions, is vulnerable to shoreline erosion and flooding and owners/developers face significant economic and property losses. Coastal erosion and shoreline retreat are also deleterious to the value of the habitat to fish and other wildlife, including endangered and threatened species such as sea turtles, Piping Plover, and Red Knot.

Engineered solutions to coastal erosion, such as beach nourishment, are in ever greater demand, and are being used more often as the rate of sea level rise and the frequency and intensity of tropical systems increases. Beach nourishment can be effective in maintaining beach/barrier island integrity over short (<decadal) time scales by reducing erosion from waves and/or flooding and by supplying sediment in areas where sediment supply is insufficient.

Ecological disturbance during beach nourishment activities may be of short duration but functional degradation can result and may persist. Disturbance effects include reduced prey density for shorebirds, fish, and crabs as well as depressed nesting by sea turtles. Benthic invertebrates are the most frequently targeted organisms for impact assessments because of their suitability as ecological indicators and because they are relatively sessile and provide ecologically meaningful patterns that can be used to infer causation.

This research group will conduct beach benthic macrofaunal monitoring to assess time for the benthic invertebrate community to recover following a beach nourishment event at the City of South Padre Island, Texas. The Texas General Land Office will use this study's results to determine an allowable frequency of beach nourishment under a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Regional General Permit.