Influence of an Extreme Cold Air Outbreak on Food Web Dynamics in Baffin Bay

Dr. Jennifer Pollack, HRI Chair Coastal Conservation and Restoration, is conducting a rapid response sampling to assess the impacts of the February 2021 Texas cold snap event on benthic macrofaunal prey and food web dynamics in the Baffin Bay ecosystem.

Benthic macrofauna will be collected from previously established soft-sediment and Serpulid reefs stations throughout the Baffin Bay ecosystem (Figure 1). Soft sediment stations SS3 and SS4 were previously sampled for benthic macrofaunal community analysis from 1989 to 1993 (as stations 24 and 6, Montagna et al. 1993; Montagna and Kalke 1995). All soft sediment stations (SS1-SS4) were previously sampled from 2014 to 2020 (as stations BB40, AL1, BB24, BB6, Rubio et al. 2018; Breaux et al. 2019; Palmer et al. in review).

During each sampling event, water temperature, salinity, dissolved oxygen concentration, and pH will be measured at each station using a YSI Pro DSS multiparameter instrument. Measurements will be taken from approximately 0.1 m below the water surface and 0.2 m above the sediment bottom.

Three replicate pieces (approximately 3 cm3) of Serpulid reef will be collected by hand at each of the Serpulid reef stations and immediately transferred to 500 μm mesh bags to prevent loss of benthic macrofauna that live within and between the worm tubes. At soft sediment stations, benthic macrofauna will be collected using a 6.7 cm diameter core tube (35.4 cm2 area) to a depth of 3 cm. Three replicate cores will be collected from each station on each sampling date. All samples taken for quantitative analysis will be preserved in 10% buffered formalin.

Black Drum (Pogonias cromis) will be collected through partnerships with commercial and recreational fishermen six to eight weeks after each benthic sampling event. Fish will likely be purchased from local trotline fishermen with whom we have traditionally worked or will be collected from anglers at a recreational boat launch. All fish tissue will be stored on ice until returning to the laboratory to be stored at -20 °C.

This project runs May 2021 through August 2021.