Critical depth and critical turbulence: Two different mechanisms for the development of phytoplankton blooms

Huisman, Jef, Paul van Oostveen, Franz J. Weissing

Limnol. Oceanogr., 44(7), 1999, 1781-1787 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.1999.44.7.1781

ABSTRACT: A turbulent diffusion model shows that there are two different mechanisms for the development of phytoplankton blooms. One of these mechanisms works in well-mixed environments and corresponds to the classical critical depth theory. The other mechanism is based on the rate of turbulent mixing. If turbulent mixing is less than a critical turbulence, phytoplankton growth rates exceed the vertical mixing rates, and a bloom develops irrespective of the depth of the upper water layer. These results demonstrate that phytoplankton blooms can develop in the absence of vertical water-column stratification.

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