Theses and Dissertations

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Ocean, Coastal, and Earth Sciences

First Advisor

Dr. Alejandro Fierro-Cabo

Second Advisor

Dr. Carlos E. Cintra-Buenrostro

Third Advisor

Dr. Jude A. Benavides


Resacas are ancient distributary channels of the lower Rio Grande River historically serving as floodwater drainage pathways onto the Laguna Madre, Texas. Resacas provide numerous ecosystem services and critical habitat for many species. Mainly influenced by urbanization, integrating a multimetric index for assessing and monitoring resaca ecosystem health is required for adaptive management. The Resaca Health Index (RHI) integrates structural and functional components: (1) nonredundant metrics describing fish communities (Fish Community Index); (2) Trophic State Index derived from Secchi depth; (3) decay constant from riparian vegetation leaf litter decomposing in the water column; and (4) a riparian quality index based on vegetation cover, structure, and channel alterations to assess the riparian habitat which directly influences adjacent aquatic environments. The RHI was applied to 11 resacas, correctly ranking them in accordance with known disturbances; making the RHI a tool that may facilitate holistic, science-based solutions for conservation and restoration of resacas.


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