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The role of mixotrophy in plankton bloom dynamics, and the consequences for productivity

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Publication details

JournalICES Journal of Marine Science
DatePublished - Aug 2005
Issue number5
Number of pages8
Pages (from-to)833-840
Original languageEnglish


Mixotrophy (=heterotrophy and photosynthesis by a single individual) is a common phenomenon in aquatic ecosystems, in particular under light- or nutrient-limitation. However, it is not usually considered in mathematical models of biological populations. This paper shows how different types of mixotrophy might be usefully incorporated into a general predator-prey model, and explores the consequences for plankton bloom dynamics and productivity. It is demonstrated, analytically and numerically, that even small levels of type III mixotrophy (a small fraction of the zooplankton also being involved in primary production) have significant effects on a system's equilibrium structure, stability, and short-term dynamics. Type III mixotrophy has a stabilizing effect on the system by reducing its excitability, i.e. its propensity to exhibit blooms. Compared with the non-mixotrophic benchmark, for a phytoplankton bloom to be triggered in a system with type III mixotrophy, a much larger perturbation is necessary. Type II mixotrophy (a small fraction of algae engage in phagotrophy) and type I mixotrophy (equal phagotrophy and phototrophy) are briefly discussed. The potential consequences for productivity are also studied. Cur results indicate that the phytoplankton-zooplankton system becomes more productive in the presence of type III mixotrophy. (c) 2005 International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

    Research areas

  • excitable phytoplankton-zooplankton system, mixotrophy, plankton bloom, MESODINIUM-RUBRUM, FOOD-WEB, MODELS, PHYTOPLANKTON, PROTISTS, MARINE, LIGHT, ECOSYSTEMS, PREDATORS, STABILITY

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