Corals are known to flourish in various turbid environments around the world. The quantitative distinction between clear and turbid water in coral habitats is not well defined nor are the amount of sediment in suspension and rates of sedimentation used to evaluate the condition of reef environments well established. This study of sediment resuspension, transport, and resulting deposition on a fringing reef flat off Molokai, Hawaii, uses a year of time-series data from a small, instrumented tripod. It shows the importance of trade winds and ocean wave heights in controlling the movement of sediment. Sediment is typically resuspended daily and the dominant controls on the magnitude of events (10-25 mg/l) are the trade-wind-generated waves and currents and tidal elevation on the reef flat. The net flux of sediment on this reef is primarily along the reef flat in the direction of the prevailing trade winds (to the west), with a secondary direction of slightly offshore, towards a zone of low coral abundance. These results have application to reef studies and reef management in other areas in several ways. First, the observed resuspension and turbidity results from fine-grained terrigenous sediment that appears to be trapped and recycled on the reef flat. Thus corals are subjected to light attenuation by the same particles repeatedly, however small the amount. Secondly, the measurements show high temporal variability (from daily to seasonal scales) of sediment resuspension, indicating that single measurements are inadequate to accurately describe conditions on a reef flat. ?? Springer-Verlag 2004.
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Sediment resuspension and transport patterns on a fringing reef flat, Molokai, Hawaii