Corals inhabiting shallow back reef habitats are often simultaneously exposed to elevated seawater temperatures and high irradiance levels, conditions known to cause coral bleaching. Water flow in many tropical back reef systems is tidally influenced, resulting in semi-diurnal or diurnal flow patterns. Controlled experiments were conducted to test effects of semi-diurnally intermittent water flow on photoinhibition and bleaching of the corals Porites lobata and P. cylindrica kept at elevated seawater temperatures and different irradiance levels. All coral colonies were collected from a shallow back reef pool on Ofu Island, American Samoa. In the high irradiance experiments, photoinhibition and bleaching were less for both species in the intermittent high-low flow treatment than in the constant low flow treatment. In the low irradiance experiments, there were no differences in photoinhibition or bleaching for either species between the flow treatments, despite continuously elevated seawater temperatures. These results suggest that intermittent flow associated with semi-diurnal tides, and low irradiances caused by turbidity or shading, may reduce photoinhibition and bleaching of back reef corals during warming events. ?? 2006 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.