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A new mathematical model to explore microbial processes and their constraints in phytoplankton colonies and sinking marine aggregates

Journal article
Authors Nasrollah Moradi
Bo Lui
Morten Hvitfeldt Iversen
Marcel Kuypers
Helle Ploug
Arzhang Khalili
Published in Science Advances
Volume 4
Issue 10
ISSN 1430-9602
Publication year 2018
Published at Department of marine sciences
Language en
Subject categories Earth and Related Environmental Sciences, Biological Sciences, Mathematics, Physical Sciences, Chemical Sciences


N2-fixing colonies of cyanobacteria and aggregates of phytoplankton and detritus sinking hundreds of meters per day are instrumental for the ocean’s sequestration of CO2 from the atmosphere. Understanding of small-scale microbial processes associated with phytoplankton colonies and aggregates is therefore crucial for understanding large-scale biogeochemical processes in the ocean. Phytoplankton colonies and sinking aggregates are characterized by steep concentration gradients of gases and nutrients in their interior. Here, we present a mechanistic mathematical model designed to perform modeling of small-scale fluxes and evaluate the physical, chemical, and biological constraints of processes that co-occur in phytoplankton colonies and sinking porous aggregates. The model accurately reproduced empirical measurements of O2 concentrations and fluxes measured in sinking aggregates. Common theoretical assumptions of either constant concentration or constant flux over the entire surface did not apply to sinking aggregates. Consequently, previous theoretical models overestimate O2 flux in these aggregates by as high as 15-fold.

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