Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Ocean stirring and plankton patchiness revealed by computer simulation

Date:
June 22, 2010
Source:
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK)
Summary:
Computer simulations show how oceanic stirring and mixing influence the formation and dynamics of plankton patches in the upper ocean. Researchers applied the methods of synchronization theory -- previously used to explain such phenomena as the coordinated flashing of fireflies along whole riverbanks. Initially they studied the balance between localized increases in phytoplankton populations and small-scale mixing, such as that due to breaking waves, in creating patches. Patchiness was found to persist despite the mixing which might be expected to smooth out the patches by blending them together.

Near-true colour MODIS satellite image showing a coccolithophore (phytoplankton) bloom in the Iceland Basin. Visible are the patches and filamentous structures of the bloom. The view is a bit like what you would see if you were an Astronaut in space and you took away Earth’s atmosphere. The image is a composite for the period 5-11 July 2007. The image spans 14-26˚W, 55-62˚N.
Credit: NEODAAS/PML

Computer simulations performed by researchers at the National Oceanography Centre and the University of Glasgow show how oceanic stirring and mixing influence the formation and dynamics of plankton patches in the upper ocean.

Tiny free-floating marine plants called phytoplankton live in vast numbers in the sunlit upper ocean. Through the process of photosynthesis, they build carbon compounds such as sugars starting with just water and carbon dioxide, which is thereby drawn down from the atmosphere.

Phytoplankton also need nutrients such as phosphate and iron, shortage of which can limit their population growth. They are also preyed upon by tiny planktonic animals called zooplankton.

"Interactions between phytoplankton, nutrients, zooplankton and the physical environment lead to complex dynamics, which we seek to understand using computer models," explained Emma Guirey, whose work on the problem was done as part of her PhD studies. "These complex dynamics can produce the patchiness of phytoplankton at the ocean surface that is invariably seen in satellite images and observed at sea during research cruises."

Guirey and her colleagues applied the methods of synchronisation theory -- previously used to explain such phenomena as the co-ordinated flashing of fireflies along whole riverbanks. Initially they studied the balance between localised increases in phytoplankton populations and small-scale mixing, such as that due to breaking waves, in creating patches. Patchiness was found to persist despite the mixing which might be expected to smooth out the patches by blending them together.

The initial studies neglected the effects of stirring, or 'advection' by large scale ocean currents such as the Gulf Stream and Kuroshio, but this is included in the most recent computer simulations. This stirring stretches the patches out into long filaments. However, the patches still resist dispersal.

"What is exciting is that the inclusion of large-scale advection, far from disrupting plankton patchiness, actually creates the kind of filamentary structure that we often observe in real-life plankton populations. Application of synchronisation theory has given us a new perspective on the production of this complex patchiness," said Guirey.

The research was supported by the Natural Environmental Research Council and the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council.

The researchers are Emma Guirey, Adrian Martinand Meric Srokosz (NOC), and Martin Bees (University of Glasgow).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Emma Guirey, Martin Bees, Adrian Martin, Meric Srokosz. Persistence of cluster synchronization under the influence of advection. Physical Review E, 2010; 81 (5): 051902 DOI: 10.1103/PhysRevE.81.051902

Cite This Page:

National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK). "Ocean stirring and plankton patchiness revealed by computer simulation." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 22 June 2010. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100621101422.htm>.
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK). (2010, June 22). Ocean stirring and plankton patchiness revealed by computer simulation. ScienceDaily. Retrieved July 24, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100621101422.htm
National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (UK). "Ocean stirring and plankton patchiness revealed by computer simulation." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2010/06/100621101422.htm (accessed July 24, 2014).

Share This




More Plants & Animals News

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Stone Fruit Listeria Scare Causes Sweeping Recall

Newsy (July 22, 2014) — The Wawona Packing Company has issued a voluntary recall on the stone fruit it distributes due to a possible Listeria outbreak. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

Michigan Plant's Goal: Flower and Die

AP (July 22, 2014) — An 80-year-old agave plant, which is blooming for the first and only time at a University of Michigan conservatory, will die when it's done (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Huge Schizophrenia Study Finds Dozens Of New Genetic Causes

Newsy (July 22, 2014) — The 83 new genetic markers could open dozens of new avenues for schizophrenia treatment research. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
CDC Head Concerned About a Post-Antibiotic Era

CDC Head Concerned About a Post-Antibiotic Era

AP (July 22, 2014) — Sounding alarms about the growing threat of antibiotic resistance, CDC Director Tom Frieden warned Tuesday if the global community does not confront the problem soon, the world will be living in a devastating post-antibiotic era. (July 22) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins