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Habitats in Galveston Bay

Habitat is defined as the ecological or environmental area where organisms live. Habitats are a standard way to ecologically subdivide a physical environment, such as a watershed. Habitats are parts of the system that are distinctive by their physical and biological characteristics and receive preferential use by some of the species in the larger ecosystem.  A preferred habitat provides an organism with space to live in, but of particular importance is the habitat’s ability to provide needed shelter (for nesting or protection from predators), food, and other resources so that an organism can complete its life cycle and produce offspring.

The Galveston Bay system contains a variety of habitat types, ranging from open water areas to wetlands to upland prairie. Regional habitats support numerous plant, fish, and wildlife species and contribute to the tremendous biodiversity found in the watershed. The maintenance of varied, abundant, and appropriate habitat is a requirement for the preservation of the characteristic biodiversity of the Galveston Bay system.

Wetlands, seagrass meadows, and oyster reefs are 3 important habitat types in Galveston Bay. Wetlands serve important hydrological and ecological functions in the bay ecosystem, but have experienced significant rates of loss over the past century (White et al. 1993). Seagrass meadows are a valuable but now rare habitat in the Galveston Bay system outside the Christmas Bay Complex (Pulich and White 1991; Pulich 1996; Williams 2007). Oyster reefs are important as indicators of the overall condition of the ecosystem and are the basis for an important commercial fishery. Oyster-shell reefs were dredged and exploited, with attendant ecological detriment, for many decades. Recently, oyster reefs bore the brunt of storm surge effects from Hurricane Ike.

 

Major Types of Habitat in Galveston Bay

 

Literature Cited:

Pulich, W. M., Jr. 1996. Map of Galveston Bay submerged aquatic vegetation. In Compilation of a digital data layer composed of wetland habitats and coastal land cover data: final report to Natural Resources Inventory Program. Austin, Texas: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

Pulich, W. M., Jr., and W. A. White. 1991. "Decline of submerged vegetation in the Galveston Bay system: chronology and relationship to physical processes." Journal of Coastal Research no. 7:1125-1138.

White, W. A., T. A. Tremblay, E. G. Wermund, and L. R. Handley. 1993. Trends and status of wetland and aquatic habitats in the Galveston Bay system, Texas. Webster, Texas: Galveston Bay National Estuary Program Publication GBNEP-31.

Williams, L. Seagrasses in Christmas Bay. of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department 2007 [cited 6 May 2009. Available from http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/fishboat/fish/didyouknow/christmasbay.phtml.

 

Related Pages:

Seagrass
Wetlands
Oyster Reefs

 

salt marsh wetlands, courtesy of Earl Nottingham, Texas Parks and Wildlife DepartmentSalt marsh wetlands are the subject of Galveston Bay restoration efforts. Image courtesy Earl Nottingham, TPWD.

 

 

Coastal prairie near Galveston Bay. Image courtesy Carolyn Fannon.Coastal prairie near Galveston Bay. Image courtesy Carolyn Fannon.

 
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