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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 387:27-37 (2009)  -  DOI:

Satellite-derived SST data as a proxy for water temperature in nearshore benthic ecology

Dan A. Smale1, Thomas Wernberg1,2,*

1School of Plant Biology, University of Western Australia, 35 Stirling Highway, Crawley, Western Australia 6009, Australia
2Centre for Marine Ecosystems Research, Edith Cowan University, 270 Joondalup Drive, Joondalup, Western Australia 6027, Australia
*Corresponding author.  Email:

ABSTRACT: Satellite-derived sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are increasingly being used as a proxy for water temperature in nearshore marine ecology, but there have been very few evaluations of how accurately SSTs reflect actual temperatures experienced by subtidal organisms. Here, we describe the benthic temperature climatology of 4 coastal locations along a ~1000 km latitudinal gradient in ocean temperature in Western Australia (WA), and compare temperature records from in situ loggers at 10 to 12 m depth with records from 2 independent satellite-derived SST datasets over 2 years. Satellite-derived SSTs were significantly correlated with in situ logger data at all locations, which demonstrate their overall ability to detect general patterns of ecological importance. However, SSTs were also significantly different from benthic water temperatures (usually 1 to 2°C higher), and they did not adequately detect ecologically important small-scale variability or provide reliable information on temperature extremes. Furthermore, rank orders of the study locations differed between the methodologies, especially in winter. We emphasize the need to carefully consider whether the accuracy and resolution of satellite-derived SSTs are appropriate for the specific ecological hypothesis being tested in nearshore subtidal habitats, and advocate the use of in situ loggers otherwise. We also highlight the suitability of the WA coastline for experimental work on the effects of temperature (and synergistic factors) on marine organisms.

KEY WORDS: Benthic climatology · Satellite-derived SST · Temperature gradient · Shallow water habitats

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Cite this article as: Smale DA, Wernberg T (2009) Satellite-derived SST data as a proxy for water temperature in nearshore benthic ecology. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 387:27-37.

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