Parameterizing the microbial loop: an experiment in reducing model complexity

Hemmings, J.C.P.; Srokosz, M.A. ORCID:; Challenor, P.G.; Fasham, M.J.R.. 2004 Parameterizing the microbial loop: an experiment in reducing model complexity. Southampton Oceanography Centre, 36pp. (Southampton Oceanography Centre Internal Document 93)

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The structure of the plankton food web in the upper mixed layer has important implications for the export of biogenic material from the euphotic zone. While the action of the microbial loop causes material to be recycled near the surface, activity of the larger zooplankton leads to a significant downward flux of material. The balance between these pathways must be properly represented in climate models to predict carbon export. However, the number of biogeochemical compartments available to represent the food web is limited by the need to couple biogeochemical models with general circulation models. A structurally simple model is therefore sought, with a number of free parameters, which can be constrained by available observations to produce reliable estimates of export. A step towards addressing this aim is described: an attempt is made to emulate the behavior of an 11 compartment model with an explicit microbial loop, using a 4 compartment model. The latter, incorporating a basic microbial loop parameterization, is derived directly from the `true' model. The results are compared with equivalent results for a 4 compartment model with no representation of the microbial loop. These non-identical twin experiments suggest that export estimates from 4 compartment models are prone to serious biases in regions where the action of the microbial loop is significant. The basic parameterization shows some promise in addressing the problem but a more sophisticated parameterization would be needed to produce reliable estimates. Some recommendations are made for future research.

Item Type: Publication - Report (Other)
Additional Keywords: biogeochemical cycles, data assimilation, ecosystem modelling, model complexity, parameter estimation
Date made live: 11 Oct 2012 13:22 +0 (UTC)

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