Science Daily, from a news release issued by
In a paper published in scientific journal Marine Biology, Dr Ken Anthony and Dr Ailsa Kerswell, of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies (CoECRS) have revealed that extreme low tides on clear sunny days can lead to widespread damage of coastal coral colonies. "Really low tides, where the local sea level gets to its extreme low for the year, can occur at different times of the day," UQ's Dr Anthony said. "In years where this occurs during the middle of the day when the sunlight is at its most intense and the reefs are almost fully exposed, there is a real risk of severe coral stress and death in the shallow reef zone."
Just like cyclones and other natural disasters, these severe ‘sun-dry tides' rarely occurred since they relied on the alignment of numerous natural extremes, he said. However, when these factors all aligned, by a combination of sun, moon and chance weather, an extreme event occurred which could leave coral colonies bleached and devastated.
One such event occurred in September 2005 while Dr Anthony and Dr Kerswell were taking JCU students on a field trip to
However, the "sundried tides" could also be anticipated. "These events are highly predictable," Dr Anthony said. "We can go into the weather reports, align them with tidal charts and predict the times of greatest risk. "The high-risk time of year is July–October, when corals are building up resources for spawning and preparing for summer stressors such as thermal bleaching."
Since studying the cause and impacts of these major events, Dr Anthony hopes that their predictable nature will lead to improved warning systems and better models for predicting stress and mortality in corals. Although predictable and natural, "sundried tides" were unavoidable and compounded the stresses already felt by corals due to climate change and human impacts, he said.
"However, if we better understand the timing and severity of natural stressors on reefs, we will be able to better predict the risks of human-induced stressors, and hopefully better manage for healthy reefs," he said.