Plankton lattices and the role of chaos in plankton patchiness

R M Hillary, M A Bees

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Spatiotemporal and interspecies irregularities in planktonic populations have been widely observed. Much research into the drivers of such plankton patches has been initiated over the past few decades but only recently have the dynamics of the interacting patches themselves been considered. We take a coupled lattice approach to model continuous-in-time plankton patch dynamics, as opposed to the more common continuum type reaction-diffusion-advection model, because it potentially offers a broader scope of application and numerical study with relative ease. We show that nonsynchronous plankton patch dynamics (the discrete analog of spatiotemporal irregularity) arise quite naturally for patches whose underlying dynamics are chaotic. However, we also observe that for parameters in a neighborhood of the chaotic regime, smooth generalized synchronization of nonidentical patches is more readily supported which reduces the incidence of distinct patchiness. We demonstrate that simply associating the coupling strength with measurements of (effective) turbulent diffusivity results in a realistic critical length of the order of 100 km, above which one would expect to observe unsynchronized behavior. It is likely that this estimate of critical length may be reduced by a more exact interpretation of coupling in turbulent flows.

Original languageEnglish
Article number031913
Pages (from-to)-
Number of pages11
JournalPhysical Review E
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2004

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