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Emergence of phytoplankton patchiness at small scales in mild turbulence

Title data

Breier, Rebekka E. ; Lalescu, Cristian ; Waas, Devin ; Wilczek, Michael ; Mazza, Marco G.:
Emergence of phytoplankton patchiness at small scales in mild turbulence.
In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. Vol. 115 (2018) Issue 48 . - pp. 12112-12117.
ISSN 1091-6490
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1073/pnas.1808711115

Abstract in another language

Phytoplankton often encounter turbulence in their habitat. As most toxic phytoplankton species are motile, resolving the interplay of motility and turbulence has fundamental repercussions on our understanding of their own ecology and of the entire ecosystems they inhabit. The spatial distribution of motile phytoplankton cells exhibits patchiness at distances of decimeter to millimeter scales for numerous species with different motility strategies. The explanation of this general phenomenon remains challenging. Furthermore, hydrodynamic cell-cell interactions, which grow more relevant as the density in the patches increases, have been so far ignored. Here, we combine particle simulations and continuum theory to study the emergence of patchiness in motile microorganisms in three dimensions. By addressing the combined effects of motility, cell-cell interaction, and turbulent flow conditions, we uncover a general mechanism: The coupling of cell-cell interactions to the turbulent dynamics favors the formation of dense patches. Identification of the important length and time scales, independent from the motility mode, allows us to elucidate a general physical mechanism underpinning the emergence of patchiness. Our results shed light on the dynamical characteristics necessary for the formation of patchiness and complement current efforts to unravel planktonic ecological interactions.

Further data

Item Type: Article in a journal
Refereed: Yes
Institutions of the University: Faculties > Faculty of Mathematics, Physics und Computer Science > Department of Physics > Chair Theoretical Physics I > Chair Theoretical Physics I - Univ.-Prof. Dr. Michael Wilczek
Profile Fields > Advanced Fields > Nonlinear Dynamics
Result of work at the UBT: No
DDC Subjects: 500 Science > 530 Physics
Date Deposited: 18 Feb 2022 11:29
Last Modified: 18 Feb 2022 11:29
URI: https://eref.uni-bayreuth.de/id/eprint/67599