Eulerian and Lagrangian Measurements of Water Flow and Residence Time in a Fringing Coral Reef Embayment

Monday, 15 December 2014
Curt Daron Storlazzi1, Alex M Messina2, Olivia M Cheriton1 and Trent W Biggs3, (1)USGS Pacific Science Ctr, Santa Cruz, CA, United States, (2)San Diego State University, Department of Geography, San Diego, CA, United States, (3)San Diego State University, San Diego, CA, United States
Hydrodynamic processes on coral reefs are important for nutrient cycling, larval dispersal, temperature variability, and understanding the impacts of terrestrial sediment, nutrients, and contaminants from adjacent impaired watersheds on coral reef ecosystems. Our goal was to understand the spatial and temporal variability in flow velocities and the associated residence time of water in the fringing coral reef flat-lined embayment of Faga’alu, on the island of Tutuila in American Samoa. To accomplish this, data from three bottom-mounted acoustic current profilers and 102 individual Lagrangian ocean surface current drifter deployments (5 drifters x 21 deployments) were combined with meteorologic data and numerical wave model results. These data and model results, collected over nine days, made it possible to evaluate the relative contribution of tidal, wind, and wave forcing on the flow patterns. The high number of drifter deployments made it possible for the velocity data to be binned into 100 m x 100 m grid cells and the resulting residence times computed for the different sets of forcing conditions. Cumulative progressive vectors calculated from the acoustic current profilers closely matched the tracks from concurrently deployed surface current drifters, showing the applicability of this hybrid Lagrangian-Eulerian measurement scheme to understand flow patterns in this geomorphically complex embayment. The bay-wide man current speeds (residence times) varied from 1-37 cm/s (2.78-0.08 hr), 1-36 cm/s (2.78-0.08 hr), and 5-64 cm/s (0.56-0.04 hr) under tidal, wind, and wave forcing, respectively; the highest speeds (shortest residence times) were measured on the outer reef flat closest to where waves were breaking on the reef crest and were slowest (longest) over the inner reef flat close to shore and deep in the embayment.