Mass-transfer-limited nitrate uptake on a coral reef flat, Warraber Island, Torres Strait, Australia

Mark E. Baird*, Moninya Roughan, Robert W. Brander, Jason H. Middleton, Greg J. Nippard

*Corresponding author for this work

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    27 Citations (Scopus)


    Previous research has identified a relationship between the rate of dissipation of turbulent kinetic energy, ε, and the mass-transfer-limited rate of uptake by a surface, herein called the ε1/4 law, and suggests this law may be applicable to nutrient uptake on coral reefs. To test this suggestion, nitrate uptake rate and gravitational potential energy loss have been measured for a section of Warraber Island reef flat, Torres Strait, northern Australia. The reef flat section is 3 km long, with a 3 m tidal range, and on the days measured, subject to 6m s-1 tradewinds. The measured nitrate uptake coefficient, S, on two consecutive days during the rising tide was 1.23 ± 0.28 and 1.42 ± 0.52×10-4 m s -1. The measured loss of gravitational potential energy across the reef flat, ΔGPE, on the same rising tides over a 178 m section was 208 ± 24 and 161 ± 20 kg m-1 s-2. Assuming the ΔGPE is dissipated as turbulent kinetic energy in the water column, and using the ε1/4 law, the mass-transfer-limited nitrate uptake coefficient, SMTL, on the two days was 1.57 ± 0.03 and 1.45 ± 0.04×10-4 m s-1. Nitrate uptake on Warraber Island reef flat is close to the mass-transfer limit, and is determined by oceanographia nitrate concentrations and energy climate.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)386-396
    Number of pages11
    JournalCoral Reefs
    Issue number3
    Publication statusPublished - Sept 2004


    • Coral reefs
    • Friction
    • Great Barrier Reef
    • Hydrodynamics
    • Nutrient uptake
    • Torres Strait


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