High-resolution physical and biogeochemical variability from a shallow back reef on Ofu, American Samoa: an end-member perspective

Shallow back reefs commonly experience greater thermal and biogeochemical variability owing to a combination of coral community metabolism, environmental forcing, flow regime, and water depth. We present results from a high-resolution (sub-hourly to sub-daily) hydrodynamic and biogeochemical study, along with a coupled long-term (several months) hydrodynamic study, conducted on the back reefs of Ofu, American Samoa. During the high-resolution study, mean temperature was 29.0 °C with maximum temperatures near 32 °C. Dissolved oxygen concentrations spanned 32–178 % saturation, and pHT spanned the range from 7.80 to 8.39 with diel ranges reaching 0.58 units. Empirical cumulative distribution functions reveal that pHT was between 8.0 and 8.2 during only 30 % of the observational period, with approximately even distribution of the remaining 70 % of the time between pHT values less than 8.0 and greater than 8.2. Thermal and biogeochemical variability in the back reefs is partially controlled by tidal modulation of wave-driven flow, which isolates the back reefs at low tide and brings offshore water into the back reefs at high tide. The ratio of net community calcification to net community production was 0.15 ± 0.01, indicating that metabolism on the back reef was dominated by primary production and respiration. Similar to other back reef systems, the back reefs of Ofu are carbon sinks during the daytime. Shallow back reefs like those in Ofu may provide insights for how coral communities respond to extreme temperatures and acidification and are deserving of continued attention.

Koweek D. A., Dunbar R. B., Monismith S. G., Mucciarone D. A., Woodson C. B. & Samuel L., in press. High-resolution physical and biogeochemical variability from a shallow back reef on Ofu, American Samoa: an end-member perspectiv. Coral Reefs. Article (subscription required).


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