A Three-Dimensional Biophysical Model of Karenia Brevis Dynamics on the West Florida Shelf: a Look at Physical Transport and Potential Zooplankton Grazing Controls

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algal blooms, florida, karenia brevis, mathematical models, phytoplankton, red tides, usa, west florida shelf

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The development of accurate predictive models of toxic dinoflagellate blooms is of great ecological importance, particularly in regions that are most susceptible to their detrimental effects. This is especially true along the west Florida shelf (WFS) and coast, where episodic bloom events of the toxic dinoflagellate Karenia brevis often wreak havoc on the valuable commercial fisheries and tourism industries of west Florida. In an effort to explain the dynamics at work within the maintenance and termination phases of a red tide, a simple three-dimensional coupled biophysical model was used in the analysis of the October 1999 red tide offshore Sarasota, Florida. Results of the numerical experiments indicate that: (1) measured and modeled flowfields were capable of transporting the observed offshore inoculum of K. brevis to within 16 km of the coastal boundary; (2) background concentrations (1000 cells L-1) of K. brevis could grow to a red tide of over 2×106 cells L-1 in little more than a month, assuming an estuarine initiation site with negligible offshore advection, no grazing losses, negligible competition from other phytoplankton groups, and no nutrient limitation; (3) maximal grazing pressure could not prevent the initiation of a red tide or cause its termination, assuming no other losses to algal biomass and a zooplankton community ingestion rate similar to that of Acartia tonsa; and (4) the light-cued ascent behavior of K. brevis served as an aggregational mechanism, concentrating K. brevis at the 55 μE m-2 s-1 isolume when mean concentrations of K. brevis exceeded 100,000 cells L-1. Further improvements in model fidelity will be accomplished by the future inclusion of phytoplankton competitors, disparate nutrient availability and limitation schemes, a more realistic rendering of the spectral light field and the attendant effects of photo-inhibition and compensation, and a mixed community of vertically-migrating proto- and metazoan grazers. These model refinements are currently under development and shall be used to aid progress toward an operational model of red tide forecasting along the WFS.

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Citation / Publisher Attribution

Continental Shelf Research, v. 28, issue 1, p. 112-136