(1) The tidal cycle and that of solar elevation interact to produce patterns in seabed irradiance during the day which change over the springs-neaps cycle. In locations where high water springs is at midday, there is a single peak in seabed irradiance in the middle of the day at neap tides and two peaks in seabed irradiance (one in the morning, the other in the evening) at spring tides.
(2) These cycles also interact to produce a springs–neaps cycle of daily mean irradiance, which is relevant to the growth of benthic algae. The pattern of this cycle will also vary from place to place. In locations where low water springs is in the middle of the day the pattern is straightforward: maximum daily irradiance always occurs at spring tides. However, where high water springs is in the middle of the day, the cycle can reverse as the days get longer. The timing of the switch in the cycle depends upon the water clarity.
(3) Variations in attenuation over the springs–neaps cycle will also be important. In the Menai Strait, a springs–neaps cycle in K is often (but not always) observed, higher attenuations occurring at spring tides when seabed sediments are stirred up by the stronger tidal currents. This will reduce seabed irradiance at spring tides and tend to favour greater irradiance at neaps. In our model runs, K was kept constant because at present it is difficult to predict these changes. However, in our observations there is evidence of greater seabed irradiance at neap tides associated with greater water clarity. Variations in cloud cover during the day can also affect the regular cycles predicted by the model.
The authors are grateful to Professor Ernest Naylor for encouragement and for information on animal behaviour and light. Members of the Marine Optics Group at Menai Bridge helped with the sampling during the experimental work in July 1994.