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Stream and aquifer biology of south-central Texas — A literature review, 1973-97

March 1, 2000

This report summarizes in table format 32 aquatic vertebrate (primarily fish), 54 aquatic invertebrate, and 13 aquatic plant studies available for the area of the South-Central Texas study unit of the U.S. Geological Survey National Water-Quality Assessment. The studies, published mostly during 1973–97, pertain to the Guadalupe, San Antonio, and Nueces River Basins, the San Antonio-Nueces and Nueces-Rio Grande Coastal Basins, and the Edwards aquifer where it underlies the upper parts of the three river basins. The biology of the study-unit streams is determined mostly by the characteristics of the ecoregions they transect—the Edwards Plateau, Texas Blackland Prairies, East Central Texas Plains, Western Gulf Coastal Plain, and Southern Texas Plains.

About 20 percent of the previous fish and invertebrate studies and about 75 percent of the aquatic plant surveys have centered on Comal Springs in Comal County and San Marcos Springs in Hays County. Although several important studies are available for the San Antonio region, documentation of aquatic biology for the remainder of the study unit is relatively sparse. The streams in the study unit, particularly in the Edwards Plateau, support three dominant biological groups—fish, aquatic invertebrates, and plants. Potential threats to these organisms include impoundments and flood-control projects, siltation from erosion, ground-water pumping, recreational activities, wastewater discharge, and introduction of non-native species. More than 30 non-native fish, invertebrate, and plant species have been introduced into the region. Of the 19 aquatic species Federally listed as endangered or threatened in Texas, 8 are associated with springs and spring runs in the study unit. All of the endangered species in the study unit are associated with springs and spring runs.

A large number of endemic species in the study unit are associated with subterranean aquatic ecosystems, most likely a consequence of the unique proximity of the varied topographic and hydrologic conditions of the area and of the geological development of the Edwards aquifer. Ninety-one endemics, including 44 species found solely underground, are associated with the aquatic ecosystems (including springs) of the Edwards aquifer.