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MEPS
Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 653:77-90 (2020)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13471

Modelling a simple mechanism for the formation of phytoplankton thin layers using large-eddy simulation: in situ growth

Ashley Brereton1,*, Yign Noh1, Siegfried Raasch2

1Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Yonsei University, Seoul 03722, South Korea
2Institute of Meteorology and Climatology, University of Hannover, 30419 Hannover, Germany
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: A curious phenomenon found in phytoplankton communities is the forming of socalled thin layers, wherein phytoplankton biomass can stretch out kilometres in the horizontal but only a few metres in the vertical. These layers are typically found at the pycnocline, just below the surface mixed layer. Thin layers are usually attributed to a range of complex environmental and species-dependent factors. However, we believe that, given the frequency at which this phenomenon is observed, a simpler mechanism is at play. In this study, we found that phytoplankton thin layers can be attributed simply to a decreasing light availability with depth, when there is an abundance of nutrients in the euphotic zone and below the mixed layer. This mechanism was ascertained using a number of modelling approaches ranging in complexity from analytical solutions of a simple 1-dimensional plankton model to a 3-dimensional biophysical model incorporating large-eddy simulation. The conditions which, according to the results of our study, allow thin layers to form are ubiquitous in the coastal ocean and are therefore a likely candidate explanation as to why planktonic thin layers are so frequently observed.


KEY WORDS: Plankton thin layers · Large-eddy simulation · Biophysical modelling · Mixed layer turbulence · Particle modelling


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Cite this article as: Brereton A, Noh Y, Raasch S (2020) Modelling a simple mechanism for the formation of phytoplankton thin layers using large-eddy simulation: in situ growth. Mar Ecol Prog Ser 653:77-90. https://doi.org/10.3354/meps13471

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