A four-component ecosystem model of biological activity in the Arabian Sea

Julian P. Mccreary, Kevin E. Kohler, Raleigh R. Hood, Donald B. Olson

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

143 Scopus citations


A coupled, physical-biological model is used to study the processes that determine the annual cycle of biological activity in the Arabian Sea. The physical model is a 21/2-layer system with a surface mixed layer imbedded in the upper layer, and fluid is allowed to move between layers via entrainment, detrainment and mixing processes. The biological model consists of a set of advective-diffusive equations in each layer that determine the nitrogen concentrations in four compartments: nutrients, phytoplankton, zooplankton and detritus. Coupling is provided by the horizontal-velocity, layer-thickness, entrainment and detrainment fields from the physical solution. Surface forcing fields (such as wind stress and photosynthetically active radiation) are derived from monthly climatological data, and the source of nitrogen for the system is upward diffusion of nutrients from the deep ocean into the lower layer. Our main-run solution compares favorably with observed physical and biological fields; in particular, it is able to simulate all the prominent phytoplankton blooms visible in the CZCS data. Three bloom types develop in response to the physical processes of upwelling, detrainment and entrainment. Upwelling blooms are strong, long-lasting events that continue as long as the upwelling persists. They occur during the Southwest Monsoon off Somalia, Oman and India as a result of coastal alongshore winds, and at the mouth of the Gulf of Aden through Ekman pumping. Detrainment blooms are intense, short-lived events that develop when the mixed layer thins abruptly, thereby quickly increasing the depth-averaged light intensity available for phytoplankton growth. They occur during the fall in the central Arabian Sea, and during the spring throughout most of the basin. In contrast to the other bloom types, entrainment blooms are weak because entrainment steadily thickens the mixed layer, which in turn decreases the depth-averaged light intensity. There is an entrainment bloom in the central Arabian Sea during June in the solution, but it is not apparent in the CZCS data. Bloom dynamics are isolated in a suite of diagnostic calculations and test solutions. Some results from these analyses are the following. Entrainment is the primary nutrient source for the offshore bloom in the central Arabian Sea, but advection and recycling also contribute. The ultimate cause for the decay of the solution's spring (and fall) blooms is nutrient deprivation, but their rapid initial decay results from grazing and self shading. zooplankton grazing is always an essential process, limiting phytoplankton concentrations during both bloom and oligotrophic periods. Detrital remineralization is also important: in a test solution without remineralization, nutrient levels drop markedly in every layer of the model and all blooms are severely weakened. Senescence, however, has little effect: in a test solution without senescence, its lack is almost completely compensated for by increased grazing. Finally, the model's detrainment blooms are too brief and intense in comparison to the CZCS data; this difference cannot be removed by altering biological parameters, which suggests that phytoplankton growth in the model is more sensitive to mixed-layer thickness than it is in the real ocean.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)193-240
Number of pages48
JournalProgress in Oceanography
Issue number3-4
StatePublished - 1996
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science
  • Geology


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