The global correlation between internal-tide generation and the depth-distribution of cold-water corals

Anna-Selma van der Kaaden*, Dick van Oevelen, Christian Mohn, Karline Soetaert, Max Rietkerk, Johan van de Koppel, Theo Gerkema

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Working paperPreprintAcademic


Internal tides are known to be an important source of mixing in the oceans, especially in the bottom boundary layer. The depth of internal-tide generation therefore seems important for benthic life and the formation of cold-water coral mounds, but internal-tidal conversion is generally investigated in a depth-integrated sense. Using both idealized and realistic simulations on continental slopes, we found that the depth of internal-tide generation increases with increasing slope steepness and decreases with intensified shallow stratification. The depth of internal-tide generation also shows a typical latitudinal dependency. Using a global database of cold-water corals, we found that the depth-pattern of internal-tide generation is remarkably similar to the depth-pattern of cold-water corals globally: shallowest near the poles and deepest around the equator with a shoaling around 25 degrees South and North and shallower north of the equator than south of the equator.

We further found that cold-water corals are, more than what would be expected by chance, associated to the (super)critical reflection of internal tides (i.e., situated on topography that is steeper than the internal tidal beam) and to trapped internal tides (i.e., above the critical latitude of 70 degrees for semidiurnal tides and 30 degrees for diurnal tides). The (super)critical reflection of internal tides and trapped internal tides therefore provide an interesting new angle of food supply mechanisms that has not yet been considered in cold-water coral studies. With climate change, stratification is expected to increase. Based on our results, this would cause a shoaling of internal-tide generation, possibly creating new shallower suitable habitat for cold-water corals on continental slopes.
Original languageEnglish
PublisherEGUsphere [preprint]
Publication statusPublished - May 2023


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