Fluid mixing by swimming organisms in the low-Reynolds-number limit

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Recent publications in the fluid physics literature have suggested that low-Reynolds-number swimming organisms might contribute significantly to ocean mixing. These papers have focussed on the mass transport due to fluid capture and disturbance by settling or swimming particles based on classical fluid mechanics flows but have neglected the role of molecular property diffusion. Scale-analysis of the property conservation equation finds that, while properties with low molecular diffusivities can have enhanced mixing for typical volume fractions in aggregations of migrating zooplankton, this mixing is still well below that due to internal-wave breaking so unlikely to be important in the ocean.

Document Type: Research Article

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1357/002224011799849435

Publication date: July 1, 2011

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  • The Journal of Marine Research publishes peer-reviewed research articles covering a broad array of topics in physical, biological and chemical oceanography. Articles that deal with processes, as well as those that report significant observations, are welcome. In the area of biology, studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. Authors benefit from thorough reviews of their manuscripts, where an attempt is made to maximize clarity. The time between submission and publication is kept to a minimum; there is no page charge.
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