Prediction of solar irradiance using ray-tracing techniques for coral macro- and micro-habitats
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© 2018 Light distribution on coral reefs is very heterogeneous at the microhabitat level and is an important determinant of coral thermal microenvironments. This study implemented a solar load model that uses a backward ray-tracing method to estimate macroscale and microscale variations of solar irradiance penetrating the ocean surface and impacting the surfaces of coral colonies. We then explored whether morphological characteristics such as tissue darkness (or pigmentation) and thickness may influence the amount of light captured and its spectral distribution by two contrasting coral colony morphologies, branching and massive. Results of global horizontal irradiance above and below the sea-surface and at the surface of coral colonies were validated using spectrometer scans, field measurements, and empirical correlations. The macroscale results of horizontal, irradiated, and shaded irradiance levels and solar altitude angles for PAR, UVA and UVB compared very well with the spectrometer-based observations (typically within < 5%). In general, a comparison between the model results and field and empirical measurements indicated that the contributions of clouds, turbidity, and tides to variations in irradiance at various depth (up to 5 m) were typically within 5–10% of each other. Moreover, the effect of colony darkness or pigmentation on light microenvironment was notably more pronounced for the massive species than branching colony. This study provided insights that species with thinner tissue have the ability to intercept more light with the difference in terms of irradiance levels between 0.1 mm and 0.8 mm tissue thickness for both massive and branching colonies were approximately 2 W m-2, which was quite unlikely to influence the overall coral heat budgets.
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