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Limnology and Oceanography e-Lectures

Kiørboe, Thomas. 2009. A Mechanistic Approach to Plankton Ecology.

Limnol. Oceanogr. e-Lectures, doi:10.4319/lol.2009.tkiorboe.2

A Mechanistic Approach to Plankton Ecology

Thomas Kiørboe
Danish Institute for Fisheries Research
Charlottenlund, Denmark

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Our limited intuition of the small-scale world of the plankton has biased the way we describe and understand ocean ecology. Classical approaches consider fluxes of energy and matter between species and populations to describe marine ecosystems but biological interactions occur between individuals rather than between the abstract entities of "populations" or "trophic levels." A complementary approach is to derive system properties from mechanistic insights in individual functioning and interactions. Plankton live in a world that is radically different from ours, and to which we have limited access. Visualization is central to developing an intuition for this world, which together with insights in small-scale fluid physics may allow a mechanistic understanding of individual interactions and deduction of properties of populations and ecosystems. This lecture demonstrates the mechanistic approach through a number of examples, including numerous videos.

Thomas Kiørboe

Thomas Kiørboe is a professor of ocean ecology at the National Institute of Aquatic Resources, Technical University of Denmark. He studies the natural history of plankton with a focus on life-histories, adaptations, and individual level biological-physical interactions. His ASLO Web lecture is an updated version of a plenary talk at ASLO's 2005 summer meeting in Spain, and he has recently published a book on the same topic (A Mechanistic Approach to Plankton Ecology; Princeton University Press, 2008).