Physical Oceanographic Studies

EPA Grant Number: R828020C004
Subproject: this is subproject number 004 , established and managed by the Center Director under grant R828020
(EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).

Center: National Center for Caribbean Coral Reef Research (NCORE)
Center Director: McManus, John W.
Title: Physical Oceanographic Studies
Investigators: Lee, Thomas N.
Institution: University of Miami
EPA Project Officer: Packard, Benjamin H
Project Period: December 15, 1999 through December 14, 2003
RFA: National Center for Caribbean Coral Reef Research (1999) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Congressionally Mandated Center , Targeted Research


The goal of the physical oceanography component of the NCORE study is to quantify the upwelling nutrient flux to the Florida Keys coral reefs and to understand the controlling physical processes. The specific objectives are: 1) To determine the spatial and temporal variability of the near-bottom flux of nutrients from the Florida Current and to quantify the rates and pathways of nutrient inputs to coral reef communities. 2) To identify and describe the primary physical processes regulating this nutrient flux. 3) To provide input to the nutrient budget. 4) To quantify the temporal and spatial characteristics of water movements and temperature and salinity variability in Pennekamp Park.

Quality Assurance

All instruments are calibrated before or after use to maintain high levels of accuracy. Instrumentation preparation, deployment and recovery are following our standard methods as discussed in the Q/A Report. Data analysis is also on target and following prescribed methodology.

Planned Activity

Planned activity for the subsequent reporting period will be to continue the ongoing field measurements both moored observations and hydrographic survey cruises to better understand the oceanography of the Florida reef tract and its influence on sustaining reef ecosystems.


South Florida coastal ecosystems consist of a collection of distinct marine environments that are strongly connected by their circulation and exchange processes on a regional scale, and by oceanic boundary currents to remote upstream regions of the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. The south Florida Coastal waters lie between the eastern Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic and are thereby strongly impacted by major currents and eddy systems that connect these regions. Large-scale transport by the Loop Current and Florida Current provide a long distance conduit for foreign recruits, especially those with long larval duration periods. The combination of eddies that form along the fronts of these current systems together with wind-driven coastal counter currents along the Florida Keys reef tract and sea surface slope driven flows through the passages between the Keys provides an effective recirculation system to retain locally spawned larvae on time scales of weeks to several months. Longer retention times are available for recruitment pathways linking south coastal Florida waters with the west Florida shelf that provide a potential recruitment link for locally spawned Florida lobster larvae. The combination of Florida Current meanders and eddies in the southern Straits of Florida, together with northward wind driven Ekman transports establishes a potential pathway for larvae spawned along the north coast of Cuba to recruit to south Florida coastal ecosystems on time scales of one to three weeks. Seasonal cycles of local winds and Florida Current transport favor the fall season for retention of local larvae, as well as recruitment of larvae from Cuban coastal waters.

Circulation and Exchange Processes Linking South Florida Coastal Waters

Thomas N. Lee1, Elizabeth Johns2, Ned Smith3, Doug Wilson2, Elizabeth Williams1 and Ryan Smith2

1University of Miami-RSMAS, Miami, Fl;
2NOAA/AOML, Miami, Fl;
3Harbor Branch Oceanographic Laboratory, Ft. Pierce, Fl.

Thomas, Lee, University of Miami-RSMAS, 4600 Rickenbacker Causeway, Miami, Fl, 33149, Phone: 305-361-4046,

Publications and Presentations:

Publications have been submitted on this subproject: View all 3 publications for this subprojectView all 9 publications for this center

Supplemental Keywords:

Coral Reefs, Estuarine Research, coastal ecosystem, aquatic ecosystem, watersheds, nutrient flux, Florida Keys, hydrogeographic survey, marine environment., RFA, Scientific Discipline, Geographic Area, Water, Ecosystem Protection/Environmental Exposure & Risk, estuarine research, Nutrients, Aquatic Ecosystems & Estuarine Research, Water & Watershed, State, Aquatic Ecosystem, algal blooms, Environmental Monitoring, Ecological Risk Assessment, Ecology and Ecosystems, Watersheds, marine ecosystem, nutrient supply, wetlands, coastal ecosystem, nutrient transport, hydrological stability, bloom dynamics, coastal resources, coastal watershed, coral reefs, estuaries, nutrient concentrations, estuarine integrity, Florida Keys, marine biology, watershed sustainablity, nutrient flux, algal growth, coastal environments, esturarine eutrophication, nutrient stress, aquatic ecosystems, coral reef ecosystem integrity, environmental indicators, environmental stress, water quality, coastal ecosystems, nutrient cycling, watershed sustainablility, coral reef communities, ecological indicators, Florida, ecosystem stress, watershed assessment, ecological research, watershed restoration, FLA

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2000
  • 2001 Progress Report
  • 2002
  • Final

  • Main Center Abstract and Reports:

    R828020    National Center for Caribbean Coral Reef Research (NCORE)

    Subprojects under this Center: (EPA does not fund or establish subprojects; EPA awards and manages the overall grant for this center).
    R828020C002 Nutrient Cycling and Algal Productivity in the Florida Keys
    R828020C003 Top-Down Trophodynamics
    R828020C004 Physical Oceanographic Studies
    R828020C005 Impacts of Nutrients on Reefs in the Florida Keys