Emergent features due to grid-cell biology: synchronisation in biophysical models

E. J. Guirey, M. A. Bees, A. P. Martin, M. A. Srokosz, M. J. R. Fasham

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Modelling studies of upper ocean phenomena, such as that of the spatial and temporal patchiness in plankton distributions, typically employ coupled biophysical models, with biology in each grid-cell represented by a plankton ecosystem model. It has not generally been considered what impact the choice of grid-cell ecosystem model, from the many developed in the literature, might have upon the results of such a study. We use the methods of synchronisation theory, which is concerned with ensembles of interacting oscillators, to address this question, considering the simplest possible case of a chain of identically represented interacting plankton grid-cells. It is shown that the ability of the system to exhibit stably homogeneous (fully synchronised) dynamics depends crucially upon the choice of biological model and number of grid-cells, with dynamics changing dramatically at a threshold strength of mixing between grid-cells. Consequently, for modelling studies of the ocean the resolution chosen, and therefore number of grid-cells used, could drastically alter the emergent features of the model. It is shown that chaotic ecosystem dynamics, in particular, should be used with care.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1401-1422
Number of pages22
JournalBulletin of Mathematical Biology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - May 2007

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