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Free Content The stability of an NPZ model subject to realistic levels of vertical mixing

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The linear stability of a vertically-distributed, Nutrient-Phytoplankton-Zooplankton (NPZ) ocean ecosystem model is analyzed to understand how vertical mixing influences biological dynamics. In the absence of vertical diffusion, the model generally exhibits both stable fixed point and limit cycle behavior, depending on the depth and choice of parameters. Diffusion couples the dynamics of nearby levels and can induce stable profiles as well as oscillatory dynamical trajectories that become vertically phase-locked for large mixing levels. Calculations of the Lyapunov exponent reveal that vertical diffusion can drive this model into a chaotic state, though this occurs only for levels of diffusion well below those found in nature. The dynamics of the model, assuming macrozooplankton are the dominant grazers in the ecosystem, are compared to those in which microzooplankton dominate, with a faster grazing rate and poor assimilation efficiency. While the coupled physical-macrozooplanton system has a stable profile, the coupled microzooplankton profile remains unstable, even at large mixing levels. Fluctuations occur on time scales varying between a few days and a few months, depending on the parameters and magnitude of diffusion.

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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 2000

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  • The Journal of Marine Research, one of the oldest journals in American marine science, 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. Biological studies involving coupling between ecological and physical processes are preferred over those that report systematics. The editors strive always to serve authors and readers in the academic oceanographic community by publishing papers vital to the marine research in the long and rich tradition of the Sears Foundation for Marine Research. We welcome you to the Journal of Marine Research.
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