Numerical modeling of the impact of sea-level rise on fringing coral reef hydrodynamics and sediment transport

Coral Reefs
By: , and 

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Abstract

Most climate projections suggest that sea level may rise on the order of 0.5-1.0 m by 2100; it is not clear, however, how fluid flow and sediment dynamics on exposed fringing reefs might change in response to this rapid sea-level rise. Coupled hydrodynamic and sediment-transport numerical modeling is consistent with recent published results that suggest that an increase in water depth on the order of 0.5-1.0 m on a 1-2 m deep exposed fringing reef flat would result in larger significant wave heights and setup, further elevating water depths on the reef flat. Larger waves would generate higher near-bed shear stresses, which, in turn, would result in an increase in both the size and the quantity of sediment that can be resuspended from the seabed or eroded from adjacent coastal plain deposits. Greater wave- and wind-driven currents would develop with increasing water depth, increasing the alongshore and offshore flux of water and sediment from the inner reef flat to the outer reef flat and fore reef where coral growth is typically greatest. Sediment residence time on the fringing reef flat was modeled to decrease exponentially with increasing sea-level rise as the magnitude of sea-level rise approached the mean water depth over the reef flat. The model results presented here suggest that a 0.5-1.0 m rise in sea level will likely increase coastal erosion, mixing and circulation, the amount of sediment resuspended, and the duration of high turbidity on exposed reef flats, resulting in decreased light availability for photosynthesis, increased sediment-induced stress on the reef ecosystem, and potentially affecting a number of other ecological processes.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title Numerical modeling of the impact of sea-level rise on fringing coral reef hydrodynamics and sediment transport
Series title Coral Reefs
DOI 10.1007/s00338-011-0723-9
Volume 30
Issue SUPPL. 1
Year Published 2011
Language English
Publisher Springer
Publisher location Amsterdam, Netherlands
Contributing office(s) Pacific Coastal and Marine Science Center
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title Coral Reefs
First page 83
Last page 96
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