Articles | Volume 11, issue 1
Model description paper
01 Feb 2018
Model description paper |  | 01 Feb 2018

CITRATE 1.0: Phytoplankton continuous trait-distribution model with one-dimensional physical transport applied to the North Pacific

Bingzhang Chen and Sherwood Lan Smith

Abstract. Diversity plays critical roles in ecosystem functioning, but it remains challenging to model phytoplankton diversity in order to better understand those roles and reproduce consistently observed diversity patterns in the ocean. In contrast to the typical approach of resolving distinct species or functional groups, we present a ContInuous TRAiT-basEd phytoplankton model (CITRATE) that focuses on macroscopic system properties such as total biomass, mean trait values, and trait variance. This phytoplankton component is embedded within a nitrogen–phytoplankton-zooplankton–detritus–iron model that itself is coupled with a simplified one-dimensional ocean model. Size is used as the master trait for phytoplankton. CITRATE also incorporates trait diffusion for sustaining diversity and simple representations of physiological acclimation, i.e., flexible chlorophyll-to-carbon and nitrogen-to-carbon ratios. We have implemented CITRATE at two contrasting stations in the North Pacific where several years of observational data are available. The model is driven by physical forcing including vertical eddy diffusivity imported from three-dimensional general ocean circulation models (GCMs). One common set of model parameters for the two stations is optimized using the Delayed-Rejection Adaptive Metropolis–Hasting Monte Carlo (DRAM) algorithm. The model faithfully reproduces most of the observed patterns and gives robust predictions on phytoplankton mean size and size diversity. CITRATE is suitable for applications in GCMs and constitutes a prototype upon which more sophisticated continuous trait-based models can be developed.

Short summary
Marine phytoplankton accounts for half of global primary production. Phytoplankton size is an important trait affecting its fitness and ecosystem functioning. We have developed a plankton model with continuous size distribution for phytoplankton and applied it in the North Pacific. This model is able to capture the general patterns of phytoplankton size distribution in the real ocean and can be used for understanding the mechanisms controlling phytoplankton size structure and diversity.