Plankton ecodynamics

Model for Adaptive Ecosystems in Coastal Seas (MAECS)

Turbidity Map Webfigure

Fig. 1: An example for a ScanFish cruise in the German Bight in May 2010: the spatial heterogeneity in both, turbidity and fluorescence is well visible.

We develop and apply models to reconstruct the dynamics of coastal ecosystems, as a prerequisite for reliable forecasts. MAECS describes how fluxes of nutrients in the coastal ocean and the (often microcospic) biota change over time. Our model also resolves the internal structure of biological compartments such as the age and size structure of zooplankton or the metabolic strategy and chemical stoichiometry of micro-algae. This way, we better understand the adaptation of living matter to multi-scale variations in the marine environement and can estimate consequences of such adaptation on the overall system dynamics.

First results of MAECS for the German Bight ecosystem are browsable in a WebGIS. The figure on the left displays meso-scale structures in chlorophyll-a concentration, a proxy for the abundance of microalgae, as generated by an interplay of physical and biological factors. The ability to reproduce observed variability in coastal ecosystems is fundamental to face grand management and research questions such as how water quality will change under human exploitation of the coastal ocean or under climate change.

Ongoing works integrate our ecosystem model as a module into an integrated coastal Earth system model that links atmospheric, estuarine, offshore, and seafloor processes (see our Modular Coupling topic).