Wave lensing produces the highest level of transient solar irradiances found in nature, ranging in intensity over several orders of magnitude in just a few tens of milliseconds. Shallow coral reefs can be exposed to wave lensing during light-wind, clear-sky conditions, which have been implicated as a secondary cause of mass coral bleaching through light stress. Management strategies to protect small areas of high-value reef from wave-lensed light stress were tested using seawater irrigation sprinklers to negate wave lensing by breaking up the water surface. A series of field and tank experiments investigated the physical and photophysiological response of the shallow-water species Stylophora pistillata and Favites abdita to wave lensing and sprinkler conditions. Results show that the sprinkler treatment only slightly reduces the total downwelling photosynthetically active and ultraviolet irradiance (̃5.0%), whereas it dramatically reduces, by 460%, the irradiance variability caused by wave lensing. Despite this large reduction in variability and modest reduction in downwelling irradiance, there was no detectable difference in photophysiological response of the corals between control and sprinkler treatments under two thermal regimes of ambient (27°C) and heated treatment (31°C). This study suggests that shallow-water coral species are not negatively affected by the strong flashes that occur under wave-lensing conditions.
- Wave lensing