Thesis: Oceanic drivers of reef productivity within a macrotidal reef atoll: Scott Reef, Western Australia
Situated in the open ocean of the Indo-Pacific, Scott Reef is a rare example of a near-pristine atoll, completely removed from the influence of land and associated anthropogenic influences. Little is known about the oceanography of this remote reef system, which forms part of a large group of submerged and emergent features on the Western Margin of the Oceanic Shoals Region. This project aims to identify the links between the benthic communities at Scott Reef and the oceanography of the surrounding shelf waters through a detailed study, combining historical measurements, in-situ data, and the application of numerical models. By examining the hydrodynamics and biological properties at Scott Reef, the significance of different exchange mechanisms in supporting the growth and diversity of benthic reef communities through this complex system will be determined. Using a novel and comprehensive multidisciplinary dataset, fluxes of nutrients, heat, and variability in carbonate chemistry will be linked to the physical regime to quantify oceanic exchange processes occurring at open ocean atoll ecosystems.
Why my research is important
Whilst most atoll hydrodynamic studies have focused on shallow systems forced by surface waves, Scott Reef presents a unique opportunity to investigate other physical influences due to its location, high spring tidal range, and presence of internal waves. It’s remoteness from land and urban centres make it an ideal location to assess ocean-reef exchange, in the absence of difficulties associated with terrestrial sourced nutrients. The reef’s diverse ecosystem has historically exhibited extraordinary resilience and recovery to disturbances; this study will facilitate understanding of how hydrodynamic forces may influence growth, metabolism, and resilience of coral reefs.