Tidal modulation of Sr/Ca ratios in a Pacific reef coral Academic Article uri icon


  • The strontium-to-calcium ratio (Sr/Ca) of reef coral skeleton is an important tool for reconstructing past sea surface temperatures (SSTs). However, the accuracy of paleoSSTs derived from fossil coral Sr/Ca is challenged by evidence that physiological processes influence skeletal chemistry. Here we show that water level variations from tidal forcing are correlated with changes in coral Sr/Ca that cannot be accounted for by changes in SST. Ion microprobe measurements of Sr/Ca ratios in a Pacific Porites lutea reveal high-frequency variations at periods of similar to6, similar to10, and similar to25 days. The relationship between Sr/Ca and temperature on these short timescales does not follow trends observed at longer periods, indicating that an additional forcing is required to explain our observations. We demonstrate that Sr/Ca is correlated with both tidal water level variations and SST, and that their contributions to the Sr/Ca content of the skeleton vary as a function of period. We propose that water level influences Sr/Ca indirectly via modulation of photosynthetically-active radiation (PAR) that drives large changes in zooxanthellate photosynthesis.

publication date

  • 2004