A multi-day hydrographic survey cruise was conducted to acquire spatially extensive, but temporally limited, high-resolution, three-dimensional measurements of currents, temperature, salinity and turbidity off West Maui in the summer of 2003 to better understand coastal dynamics along a complex island shoreline with coral reefs. These data complement long-term, high-resolution tide, wave, current, temperature, salinity and turbidity measurements made at a number of fixed locations in the study area starting in 2001. Analyses of these hydrographic data, in conjunction with numerous field observations, evoke the following conceptual model of water and turbidity flux along West Maui. Wave- and wind-driven flows appear to be the primary control on flow over shallower portions of the reefs while tidal and subtidal currents dominate flow over the outer portions of the reefs and insular shelf. When the direction of these flows counter one another, which is quite common, they cause a zone of cross-shore horizontal shear and often form a front, with turbid, lower-salinity water inshore of the front and clear, higher-salinity water offshore of the front. It is not clear whether these zones of high shear and fronts are the cause or the result of the location of the fore reef, but they appear to be correlated alongshore over relatively large horizontal distances (orders of kilometers). When two flows converge or when a single flow is bathymetrically steered, eddies can be generated that, in the absence of large ocean surface waves, tend to accumulate material. Areas of higher turbidity and lower salinity tend to correlate with regions of poor coral health or the absence of well-developed reefs, suggesting that the oceanographic processes that concentrate and/or transport nutrients, contaminants, low-salinity water or suspended sediment might strongly influence coral reef ecosystem health and sustainability.
Additional publication details
Cross-shore velocity shear, eddies and heterogeneity in water column properties over fringing coral reefs: West Maui, Hawaii