Royal Society Publishing

Plankton blooms induced by turbulent flows

R. Reigada, R. M. Hillary, M. A. Bees, J. M. Sancho, F. Sagués


Plankton play an important role in the ecology of the ocean and the climate because of their participation in the global carbon cycle at the base of the food chain. However, damaging plankton blooms can sometimes occur and are initially characterized by sudden transient increases in the phytoplankton population. They are thought to be driven by several effects, such as seasonal variations in temperature and salinity, and nutrient mixing. Furthermore, phytoplankton and zooplankton have different buoyancy properties, leading to a differential response in turbulent environments. In this paper, we investigate this effect in a model of advected plankton dynamics. We find that, over a range of parameter values, flows of marine species subjected to inertial/viscous forces naturally lead to patchiness and, in turn, periodically sustained plankton blooms.

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