Strain rate magnitude at the free surface, illustrating Kelvin-Helmoltz (KH) shear instabilities.

Environmental Fluid Mechanics (2022)Cite this article


The hydrodynamics of coral reefs strongly influences their biological functioning, impacting processes such as nutrient availability and uptake, recruitment success and bleaching. For example, coral reefs located in oligotrophic regions depend on upwelling for nutrient supply. Coral reefs at Sodwana Bay, located on the east coast of South Africa, are an example of high latitude marginal reefs. These reefs are subjected to complex hydrodynamic forcings due to the interaction between the strong Agulhas current and the highly variable topography of the region. In this study, we explore the reef scale hydrodynamics resulting from the bathymetry for two steady current scenarios at Two-Mile Reef (TMR) using a combination of field data and numerical simulations. The influence of tides or waves was not considered for this study as well as reef-scale roughness. Tilt current meters with onboard temperature sensors were deployed at selected locations within TMR. We used field observations to identify the dominant flow conditions on the reef for numerical simulations that focused on the hydrodynamics driven by mean currents. During the field campaign, southerly currents were the predominant flow feature with occasional flow reversals to the north. Northerly currents were associated with greater variability towards the southern end of TMR. Numerical simulations showed that Jesser Point was central to the development of flow features for both the northerly and southerly current scenarios. High current variability in the south of TMR during reverse currents is related to the formation of Kelvin-Helmholtz type shear instabilities along the outer edge of an eddy formed north of Jesser Point. Furthermore, downward vertical velocities were computed along the offshore shelf at TMR during southerly currents. Current reversals caused a change in vertical velocities to an upward direction due to the orientation of the bathymetry relative to flow directions.


  • A predominant southerly current was measured at Two-Mile Reef with occasional reversals towards the north.
  • Field observations indicated that northerly currents are spatially varied along Two-Mile Reef.
  • Simulation of reverse currents show the formation of a separated flow due to interaction with Jesser Point with Kelvin–Helmholtz type shear instabilities along the seaward edge.

지금까지 Sodwana Bay에서 자세한 암초 규모 유체 역학을 모델링하려는 시도는 없었습니다. 이러한 모델의 결과는 규모가 있는 산호초 사이의 흐름이 산호초 건강에 어떤 영향을 미치는지 탐색하는 데 사용할 수 있습니다. 이 연구에서는 Sodwana Bay의 유체역학을 탐색하는 데 사용할 수 있는 LES 모델을 개발하기 위한 단계별 접근 방식을 구현합니다. 여기서 우리는 이 초기 단계에서 파도와 조수의 영향을 배제하면서 Agulhas 해류의 유체역학에 초점을 맞춥니다. 이 접근법은 흐름의 첫 번째 LES를 제시하고 Sodwana Bay의 산호초에서 혼합함으로써 향후 연구의 기초를 제공합니다.

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Text and image taken from Deoraj, et al. (2022), On the reef scale hydrodynamics at Sodwana Bay, South Africa. Preprint courtesy the authors.