Hydrodynamic response of a fringing coral reef to a rise in mean sea level

Charitha Pattiaratchi

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review


    Ningaloo Reef, located along the northwest coast of Australia, is one of the longest fringing coral reefs in the world extending ~300 km. Similar to other fringing reefs, it consists of a barrier reef ~1-6 km offshore with occasional gaps, backed by a shallow lagoon. Wave breaking on the reef generates radiation stress gradients that produces wave setup across the reef and lagoon and mean currents across the reef. A section of Ningaloo Reef at Sandy Bay was chosen as the focus of an intense 6-week field experiment and numerical simulation using the wave model SWAN coupled to the three-dimensional circulation model ROMS. The physics of nearshore processes such as wave breaking, wave setup and mean flow across the reef was investigated in detail by examining the various momentum balances established in the system. The magnitude of the terms and the distance of their peaks from reef edge in the momentum balance were sensitive to the changes in mean sea level, e.g. the wave forces decreased as the mean water depth increased (and hence, wave breaking dissipation was reduced). This led to an increase in the wave power at the shoreline, a slight shift of the surf zone to the lee side of the reef and changes in the intensity of the circulation. The predicted hydrodynamic fields were input into a Lagrangian particle tracking model to estimate the transport time scale of the reef-lagoon system. Flushing time of the lagoon with the open ocean was computed using two definitions in renewal of semi-enclosed water basins and revealed the sensitivity of such a transport time scale to methods. An increase in the lagoon exchange rate at smaller mean sea-level rise and the decrease at higher mean sea-level rise was predicted through flushing time computed using both methods. © 2014 Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)975-987
    Number of pages13
    JournalOcean Dynamics
    Issue number7
    Early online date1 Jun 2014
    Publication statusPublished - Jul 2014


    • DRIVEN
    • FLOW
    • Fringing coral reef
    • Hydrodynamic and transport modelling
    • Mean sea-level rise
    • WATER

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