MEPS 250:13-28 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/meps250013

Influence of autotroph model complexity on simulations of microbial communities in marine mesocosms

J. R. Dearman1, A. H. Taylor2, K. Davidson1,*

1Scottish Association for Marine Science, Dunstaffnage Marine Laboratory, Oban, Argyll PA37 1QA, Scotland, United Kingdom
2Plymouth Marine Laboratory, Prospect Place, West Hoe, Plymouth PL1 3DH, United Kingdom
*Corresponding author. Email:

ABSTRACT: Marine mesocosm experiments were conducted using a natural phytoplankton assemblage from the Tromsheim fjord, Norway, in June 2000. Replicate experiments were conducted at 2 inorganic nitrogen:silicon (N:Si) molar ratios, 4:1 and 1:1. Time course changes in the different groups that comprised the microplanktonic community and inorganic nutrient concentrations were recorded. We sought to simulate these data using 3 alternative mathematical models based on a common framework of functional groups and inter-group interactions following an earlier model. The functional groups incorporated within the model were bacteria, diatoms, dinoflagellates, phytoflagellates, picophytoplankton, heteroflagellates and larger microzooplankton along with inorganic nutrients, dissolved organic matter and detritus. We modified the autotroph functional group sub-models to achieve different levels of model sophistication in terms of utilisation of nutrients (single [N] or dual [N:Si] inorganic nutrient models) and organism structure (biomass growth made a function or extracellular or intracellular nutrient concentration). We tested the influence of different model formulations on simulations of particulate carbon (C) biomass and its partitioning amongst the microbial groups in the 2 different experimental nutrient regimes. To achieve satisfactory global simulations (both nutrient regimes) with a single-parameter set, it was found necessary to include a dual currency of both inorganic N and Si in the model, and to relate C biomass growth to the intracellular rather than extracellular concentration of the nutrient in the least relative supply. Models lacking these 2 features were unable to simulate N and Si and C biomass dynamics of the microbial assemblage in alternative conditions of high and low N:Si ratio.


KEY WORDS: Microbial food-web model · Nitrogen:silicon · Cell quota · Autotrophs


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