Dataset: Physical oceanography of the Ningaloo Marine Park, Western Australia (WAMSI Node 3 Project 3.1.6)


Ningaloo Reef is a unique fringing reef, the largest in Australia and one of the most biologically diverse of shallow water marine ecosystems. An intensive oceanographic field study, during April-May 2006, focused on a stretch of reef approximately 5km in length, located in the Sandy Bay region of the Ningaloo Marine Park (NMP). The reef morphology in this region is typical of the Ningaloo system with a simple configuration of shore-parallel reef sections, punctuated by deeper channels, oriented perpendicular to the reef crests. The field study measured key hydrodynamic variables at 25 sites spanning the lagoonal waters to the front reef slopes. \n \nThis project delivers an enabling data set on the dominant oceanographic processes in the NMP. It is envisaged that this data set will provide the basis on which further modeling and bio-physical studies will be built, with the ultimate goal of developing a system-wide understanding of the physical processes in the marine park and how they influence ecological processes and biodiversity.\n The hydrodynamic processes that have shaped the patterns of biodiversity at Ningaloo Reef are poorly described. Existing knowledge has been generated through a small number of spatially and temporally limited studies, and as such does not provide the system-wide understanding of the hydrodynamics and their influence on key ecological processes that is needed to develop robust management plans and strategies.\n The observational array included wave gauges and single point current meters deployed along cross-reef transects from the reef slope into the lagoons, and current profilers deployed within the deep channels. A number of bottom mounted temperature loggers were also deployed within a reef channel to provide data on intrusions (upwelling) of cooler oceanic water and the development and destruction of thermal stratification. Offshore current conditions, including the interaction of the Leeuwin and Ningaloo currents and their annual and interannual variability were monitored by two existing AIMS moorings offshore from the Tantabiddi reef channel. The mooring sites are located in water depths of 100m and 50m and have been occupied contiguously since 1999.\n

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