Articles | Volume 16, issue 5
Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 16, 623–630, 2009
https://doi.org/10.5194/npg-16-623-2009

Special issue: Nonlinear processes in oceanic and atmospheric flows

Nonlin. Processes Geophys., 16, 623–630, 2009
https://doi.org/10.5194/npg-16-623-2009

  30 Oct 2009

30 Oct 2009

Plankton bloom controlled by horizontal stirring

W. McKiver1, Z. Neufeld1, and I. Scheuring2 W. McKiver et al.
  • 1School of Mathematical Sciences & Complex and Adaptive Systems Laboratory, University College Dublin, Ireland
  • 2Institute of Biology, Department of Plant Taxonomy and Ecology, Research Group of Theoretical Biology and Ecology, Eötvös University, Budapest, Hungary

Abstract. Here we show a simple mechanism in which changes in the rate of horizontal stirring by mesoscale ocean eddies can trigger or suppress plankton blooms and can lead to an abrupt change in the average plankton density. We consider a single species phytoplankton model with logistic growth, grazing and a spatially non-uniform carrying capacity. The local dynamics have multiple steady states for some values of the carrying capacity that can lead to localized blooms as fluid moves across the regions with different properties. We show that for this model even small changes in the ratio of biological timescales relative to the flow timescales can greatly enhance or reduce the global plankton productivity. Thus, this may be a possible mechanism in which changes in horizontal mixing can trigger plankton blooms or cause regime shifts in some oceanic regions. Comparison between the spatially distributed model and Lagrangian simulations considering temporal fluctuations along fluid trajectories, demonstrates that small scale transport processes also play an important role in the development of plankton blooms with a significant influence on global biomass.