Dispersion/dilution enhances phytoplankton blooms in low-nutrient waters

Yoav Lehahn, Ilan Koren, Shlomit Sharoni, Francesco D'Ovidio, Assaf Vardi, Emmanuel Boss

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Spatial characteristics of phytoplankton blooms often reflect the horizontal transport properties of the oceanic turbulent flow in which they are embedded. Classically, bloom response to horizontal stirring is regarded in terms of generation of patchiness following large-scale bloom initiation. Here, using satellite observations from the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre and a simple ecosystem model, we show that the opposite scenario of turbulence dispersing and diluting fine-scale (∼1-100 km) nutrient-enriched water patches has the critical effect of regulating the dynamics of nutrients-phytoplankton-zooplankton ecosystems and enhancing accumulation of photosynthetic biomass in low-nutrient oceanic environments. A key factor in determining ecological and biogeochemical consequences of turbulent stirring is the horizontal dilution rate, which depends on the effective eddy diffusivity and surface area of the enriched patches. Implementation of the notion of horizontal dilution rate explains quantitatively plankton response to turbulence and improves our ability to represent ecological and biogeochemical processes in oligotrophic oceans.

Original languageEnglish
Article number14868
JournalNature Communications
StatePublished - 31 Mar 2017
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2017 The Author(s).

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Chemistry
  • General Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology
  • General Physics and Astronomy


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