The effect of flow and morphology on boundary layers in the scleractinians Dichocoenia stokesii (Milne-Edwards and Haime) and Stephanocoenia michilini (Milne-Edwards and Haime)

  • Gardella D
  • Edmunds P
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Mass transfer characteristics of scleractinian corals are affected by their skeletal morphology and the concentration gradients that develop as a consequence of the interactions of their morphology and biomass with the overlying seawater. These interactions can have a profound effect on coral metabolism. In this study, boundary layer characteristics were compared between different size colonies of the corals Dichocoenia stokesii and Stephanocoenia michitini to determine the relative roles of colony size and corallite structures (i.e. surface roughness) in mass transfer. Colonies of both species were rounded in shape, but differed in small-scale roughness as measured by the elevation of corallites. Additionally, D. stokesii had a greater aspect ratio than S. michilini, and their colonies were slightly taller for a given diameter. Boundary layers were characterized by placing dead coral skeletons in a flow tank and estimating shear velocities (u*) at different flow speeds. The effects of flow speed, size, and roughness on shear velocities were estimated for two juvenile size classes (10-20 and 30-40 mm diameter) of each species that were exposed to unidirectional flow regimes (4 and 17 cm s-1). Shear velocities were significantly greater in high, compared to low flow, and there was a significant interaction between colony size and surface roughness; the interaction was caused by a difference in magnitude, rather than direction, of the effect of roughness and size on u*. Thus, there was a greater degree of turbulence at high flow compared to low flow, regardless of roughness or size, and the greatest turbulence occurred over large colonies of D. stokesii at high flow. Together, these results suggest that boundary layers around small corals are heavily influenced by upstream roughness elements, and more strongly affected by flow regimes than skeletal features. The relationship between colony morphology (i.e. aspect ratio and, possibly, surface roughness) and boundary layer characteristics may be non-linear in small corals. © 2001 Elsevier Science B.V.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Boundary layer
  • Coral
  • Flow
  • Scleractinian

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  • D. J. Gardella

  • P. J. Edmunds

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