MEPS - Vol. 544 - FEATURE ARTICLE

Measuring, modeling, and predicting phytoplankton patches in the coastal ocean. Graphic: Jason Graff

Graff JR, Menden-Deuer S

 

Physical and optical properties of phytoplankton-rich layers in a coastal fjord: a step toward prediction and strategic sampling of plankton patchiness

 

Dense aggregations of phytoplankton occurring as patches or layers in the marine environment are sites of intense ecological interactions and enhanced primary and secondary production. These aggregations cannot be adequately estimated using a standard field sampling approach. Locating patches is often fortuitous and after they have developed, thereby limiting our understanding of patch formation, persistence and decline processes. Using predictive modeling techniques, Graff & Menden-Deuer provide a quantitative and predictive relationship between water column stability parameters and patch presence. Incorporating a larger suite of environmental variables in addition to water column stability parameters allowed the prediction of patch intensity. These predictive tools can be used in guiding sampling strategies to locate patches as well as modeling studies that seek to mechanistically link potential formation or dissipation processes to the ecology of heterogeneous plankton distributions.

 

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