THE PHYSICAL ENVIRONMENT IN CORAL REEFS OF THE TAYRONA NATIONAL NATURAL PARK (COLOMBIAN CARIBBEAN) IN RESPONSE TO SEASONAL UPWELLING
Coral reefs are subjected to physical changes in their surroundings including wind velocity, water temperature, and water currents that can affect ecological processes on different spatial and temporal scales. However, the dynamics of these physical variables in coral reef ecosystems are poorly understood. In this context, Tayrona National Natural Park (TNNP) in the Colombian Caribbean is an ideal study location because it contains coral reefs and is exposed to seasonal upwelling that strongly changes all key physical factors mentioned above. This study therefore investigated wind velocity and water temperature over two years, as well as water current velocity and direction for representative months of each season at a windand wave-exposed and a sheltered coral reef site in one exemplary bay of TNNP using meteorological data, temperature loggers, and an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) in order to describe the spatiotemporal variations of the physical environment. Findings revealed that water temperatures (28.7 ± 0.8 °C and maximal 30.3 °C during non-upwelling; 25.1 ± 1.7 °C and minimal 20.3 °C during upwelling) exhibited no significant differences between sites and were negatively correlated with wind velocities (0.4 ± 0.3 m s-1 during non-upwelling and 1.8 ± 1.0 m s-1 with a maximum of 4.1 m s-1 during upwelling). Water current velocity was significantly higher at the exposed compared to the sheltered site during non-upwelling periods at a water depth of 8-10 m. During upwelling, water current velocities were also higher at the exposed site (6.4 cm s-1 exposed and 5.9 cm s-1 sheltered), but when wind speed surpassed 1.7 m s-1, no spatial differences occurred. Water currents showed a clockwise circulation during upwelling following the wind fields, but no clear circulation pattern during non-upwelling. Significant positive correlation between wind and water current velocity was detected at the sheltered, but not at the exposed site. Wind-stress at the exposed site affected water currents throughout the entire water column (at least 10 m deep) during both seasons, but reached only until 3-4 m water depth at the sheltered site during non-upwelling and down to 10 m during upwelling. Consequently, organisms at the exposed site experience constantly high water current exposure throughout the year. This may explain the pronounced site-specific reef community composition differences as water current velocity and circulation control distribution of invertebrate larvae and supply with plankton and essential nutrients.
Water current velocity and direction; ADCP; upwelling; coral reefs; Colombian Caribbean
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