Emergence of steady and oscillatory localized structures in a phytoplankton-nutrient model

Antonios Zagaris, A. Doelman

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    Co-limitation of marine phytoplankton growth by light and nutrient, both of which are essential for phytoplankton, leads to complex dynamic behaviour and a wide array of coherent patterns. The building blocks of this array can be considered to be deep chlorophyll maxima, or DCMs, which are structures localized in a finite depth interior to the water column. From an ecological point of view, DCMs are evocative of a balance between the inflow of light from the water surface and of nutrients from the sediment. From a (linear) bifurcational point of view, they appear through a transcritical bifurcation in which the trivial, no-plankton steady state is destabilized. This paper is devoted to the analytic investigation of the weakly nonlinear dynamics of these DCM patterns, and it has two overarching themes. The first of these concerns the fate of the destabilizing stationary DCM mode beyond the centre manifold regime. Exploiting the natural singularly perturbed nature of the model, we derive an explicit reduced model of asymptotically high dimension which fully captures these dynamics. Our subsequent and fully detailed study of this model - which involves a subtle asymptotic analysis necessarily transgressing the boundaries of a local centre manifold reduction - establishes that a stable DCM pattern indeed appears from a transcritical bifurcation. However, we also deduce that asymptotically close to the original destabilization, the DCM loses its stability in a secondary bifurcation of Hopf type. This is in agreement with indications from numerical simulations available in the literature. Employing the same methods, we also identify a much larger DCM pattern. The development of the method underpinning this work - which, we expect, shall prove useful for a larger class of models - forms the second theme of this paper.
    Original languageUndefined
    Pages (from-to)3437-3486
    Number of pages50
    Issue number12
    Publication statusPublished - Dec 2011


    • EWI-21059
    • METIS-285210
    • IR-79063

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