Modelling three-dimensional flow over spur-and-groove morphology

Renan F. da Silva, Curt D. Storlazzi, Justin S. Rogers, Johan Reyns, Robert McCall

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


Spur-and-groove (SAG) morphology characterizes the fore reef of many coral reefs worldwide. Although the existence and geometrical properties of SAG have been well documented, an understanding of the hydrodynamics over them is limited. Here, the three-dimensional flow patterns over SAG formations, and a sensitivity of those patterns to waves, currents, and SAG geometry were characterized using the physics-based Delft3D-FLOW and SWAN models. Shore-normal shoaling waves over SAG formations were shown to drive two circulation cells: a cell on the lower fore reef with offshore flow over the spurs and onshore flow over the grooves, except near the seabed where velocities were always onshore, and a cell on the upper fore reef with offshore surface velocities and onshore bottom currents, which result in depth-averaged onshore and offshore flow over the spurs and grooves, respectively. The mechanism driving this flow results from the net of the radiation stress gradients and pressure gradient, which is balanced by the Reynolds stress gradients and bottom friction that differ over the spur and over the groove. Waves were the primary driver of variations in modelled flow over SAG, with the flow strength increasing for increasing wave heights and periods. Spur height, SAG wavelength, and the water depth at peak spur height were the dominant influences on the hydrodynamics, with spur heights directly proportional to the strength of SAG circulation cells. SAG formations with shorter SAG wavelengths only presented one circulation cell on the shallower portion of the reef, as opposed to the two circulation cells for longer SAG wavelengths. SAG formations with peak spur heights occurring in shallower water had stronger circulation than those with peak spur heights occurring in deeper water. These hydrodynamic patterns also likely affect coral and reef development through sediment and nutrient fluxes.

Original languageEnglish
JournalCoral Reefs
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 19 Oct 2020


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