The Texas coast (Figure 1) consists of complex and diverse ecosystems with a
varying precipitation gradient. The northernmost portion of the coast, extending from
Sabine Lake to Galveston Bay, is composed of salt, brackish, intermediate, and fresh
marshes, with humid flatwoods inland (Moulton and others, 1997). Coastal prairies are
found across the entire coast. From Galveston Bay to Corpus Christi Bay, rivers feed into
large bays and estuarine ecosystems. Barrier islands and peninsulas exist along the coast
from Galveston Bay to the Mexican border. The southernmost portion of the coast is
composed of wind-tidal flats and the hypersaline Laguna Madre. The Laguna Madre
lacks rivers and has little rainfall and restricted inlet access to the Gulf. Semiarid
rangeland and irrigated agricultural land can be found inland.
Approximately 6 million people live in Texas’ coastal counties (U.S. Census
Bureau, 2010; Texas GLO, 2013). Seventy percent of the state’s industry and commerce
occurs within 160.9 km (100 miles) of the coast (Moulton and others, 1997). Texas ports
support 1.4 million jobs and generate $6.5 billion in tax revenues (Texas GLO, 2013).
Chemical and petroleum production and marine commerce thrive on the Texas coast.
Agriculture, grazing, commercial and recreational fishing, and recreation and tourism are strong industries along the coast and in adjacent areas; oil and gas production,
agriculture, and tourism are the state’s three largest industries.
Seafood landed at Texas ports valued $240 million in 2011, and recreational
saltwater fishing alone provided nearly 17,000 jobs (Texas GLO, 2013). Fishes directly
dependent upon wetland habitats include multiple shrimp species, blue crab, eastern
oyster, black drum, flounder, sheepshead, and snapper. Texas has the highest number of
hunters, anglers, and hunting expenditures in the nation (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service,
2012). Hunting yields $2.3 billion for the state, and recreational fishing yields $3.2
billion. Texas is the top birding destination in the Nation. Tourism in Texas generates
$7.5 billion for the state, and wildlife viewing generates $2.9 billion.