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Fluctuating thermal environments of shallow-water rocky reefs in the Gulf of California, Mexico.


As part of a broad-scale study of the biogeography of rocky reefs in the Gulf of California, Mexico (GOC), we collected a continuous 1-yr temperature time series at ~5 m water depth at 16 sites spanning 5° of latitude and ~700 km along the western boundary of the basin. Throughout the region, thermal conditions were most variable in summer with fluctuations concentrated at diurnal and semi-diurnal frequencies, likely associated with solar and wind forcing and vertical water column oscillations forced by internal waves. Temperatures in winter were less variable than in summer, and minimum temperatures also differed among sites. Thermal variability integrated across the diurnal and semi-diurnal frequency bands was greatest near the Midriff Islands in the northern GOC and decreased toward the southern sites. Diurnal variability was greater than semi-diurnal variability at 13 of the 16 sites. A statistic-of-extremes analysis indicated shortest return times for cooling events in summer, and reef organisms at many of the sites may experience anomalous 2 to 5 °C cooling events multiple times per month. The significant extent of local temperature variability may play important roles in limiting species occurrences among sites across this biogeographic region.

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