Chaotic dynamics in a simple dynamical green ocean plankton model
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The exchange of important greenhouse gases between the ocean and atmosphere is influenced by the dynamics of near-surface plankton ecosystems. Marine plankton ecosystems are modified by climate change creating a feedback mechanism that could have significant implications for predicting future climates. The collapse or extinction of a plankton population may push the climate system across a tipping point. Dynamic green ocean models (DGOMs) are currently being developed for inclusion into climate models to predict the future state of the climate. The appropriate complexity of the DGOMs used to represent plankton processes is an ongoing issue, with models tending to become more complex, with more complicated dynamics, and an increasing propensity for chaos. We consider a relatively simple (four-population) DGOM of phytoplankton, zooplankton, bacteria and zooflagellates where the interacting plankton populations are connected by a single limiting nutrient. Chaotic solutions are possible in this 4-dimensional model for plankton population dynamics, as well as in a reduced 3-dimensional model, as we vary two of the key mortality parameters. Our results show that chaos is robust to the variation of parameters as well as to the presence of environmental noise, where the attractor of the more complex system is more robust than the attractor of its simplified equivalent. We find robust chaotic dynamics in low trophic order ecological models, suggesting that chaotic dynamics might be ubiquitous in the more complex models, but this is rarely observed in DGOM simulations. The physical equations of DGOMs are well understood and are constrained by conservation principles, but the ecological equations are not well understood, and generally have no explicitly conserved quantities. This work, in the context of the paucity of the empirical and theoretical bases upon which DGOMs are constructed, raises the interesting question of whether DGOMs better represent reality if they include or exclude chaotic dynamics, but also points to a need for a comprehensive approach to model development and testing. We contend that the DGOM community can learn important lessons from the analysis of simple models, and should consider a spectrum of methods from the analysis of simple(r) zero-dimensional models of population interactions through to numerical simulations of fully coupled biogeophysical models.
Journal of Marine Systems
© 2014 Elsevier B.V. This is the author-manuscript version of this paper. Reproduced in accordance with the copyright policy of the publisher. Please refer to the journal's website for access to the definitive, published version.