Scientia Marina, Vol 80, No 2 (2016)

Tropical coral reef system hydrodynamics in the western Gulf of Mexico

Mayra Lorena Riveron-Enzastiga
Cuerpo Academico de Analisis y Sintesis de Zona Costera, Universidad Veracruzana , Mexico

Noel Carbajal
Instituto Potosino de Investigacion en Ciencia y Tecnologia , Mexico

David Salas-Monreal
Instituto de Ciencias Marinas y Pesquerias, Universidad Veracruzana , Mexico


The acoustic Doppler current profiler, temperature, salinity and density data set were recorded monthly over the course of a year in a tropical coral reef system to elucidate the effects of abrupt bathymetric changes on current variability and surface temperature over time. A minimum of five transect repetitions were performed during one diurnal tidal cycle each month during the year 2008. According to the empirical orthogonal functions, the dominant terms were advection and friction due to the shallowness of the system and the relatively short continental shelf located in front of the Port of Veracruz (Mexico). The data showed the dominance of the northwest-southeast current velocity components (parallel to the coast) attributed to the winds. The southeastward current velocity was the dominant component throughout the year, followed by the northwestward current velocity component. The data suggested that coral reefs produce current rectification near the shallow reef areas (1 m depth). No correlation existed between surface temperature and the chlorophyll-a levels throughout the year. Residual current velocities throughout the year never reached more than 50 cm –1 during the sampling periods, and the surface temperature varied from 21 to 30°C, with the highest temperature being observed near the coast and reefs. Finally there was a direct correlation of the northeasterly and strong northwesterly winds with the well-mixed cold-salty water column in the reef area.


flow dynamics; tropical coral reef; current velocities; flow rectification; Veracruz Reef System

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