Improved understanding of the East Australian Current (EAC) and sea-temperature patterns within the Solitary Islands region of northern New South Wales, an area where tropical and temperate faunas overlap, is an essential step in explaining cross-shelf gradients in biotic patterns. Sea temperature at ∼10 m was logged using thermistors at seven stations every 30 minutes between January 2001 and December 2008. Stations were replicated in three distance-from-shore categories (6 km from the coast), corresponding with predominant assemblage patterns of reef fish. Daily, monthly, seasonal and yearly sea-temperature patterns were compared between and within stations and distance-from-shore categories. SST images were examined to determine the role of the EAC in producing short-period (2 to 4 days) temperature anomalies. Sea temperatures ranged between 16.6–27.5 °C and were highest offshore and lowest inshore. Offshore sites experienced average temperatures ∼1 °C higher than nearshore sites over the 8-year study. There was considerable variation in sea temperature between years, with 2002 and 2006 being the warmest and 2007 the coolest. These patterns correspond with strong inter-annual variability of the EAC at the scale of the Solitary Islands region. The EAC influenced shelf waters most strongly during late spring/summer when temperatures were also most variable over the smallest temporal scales (hours, days). Short-period anomalies between and within stations could largely be explained by variable encroachment of the EAC across the shelf and/or colder intrusions of water forming adjacent to the coastline. Previous assumptions that the EAC strongly influences gradients in the distribution of tropical species in this nearshore region are strongly supported.
Malcolm, HA, Davies, P, Jordan, A & Smith, SDA 2011, 'Variation in sea temperature and the East Australian Current in the Solitary Islands region between 2001-2008', Deep Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography, vol. 58, no. 5, pp. 616-627.
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