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Journal of Experimental Biology partnership with Dryad

Biogenic inputs to ocean mixing
Kakani Katija


Recent studies have evoked heated debate about whether biologically generated (or biogenic) fluid disturbances affect mixing in the ocean. Estimates of biogenic inputs have shown that their contribution to ocean mixing is of the same order as winds and tides. Although these estimates are intriguing, further study using theoretical, numerical and experimental techniques is required to obtain conclusive evidence of biogenic mixing in the ocean. Biogenic ocean mixing is a complex problem that requires detailed understanding of: (1) marine organism behavior and characteristics (i.e. swimming dynamics, abundance and migratory behavior), (2) mechanisms utilized by swimming animals that have the ability to mix stratified fluids (i.e. turbulence and fluid drift) and (3) knowledge of the physical environment to isolate contributions of marine organisms from other sources of mixing. In addition to summarizing prior work addressing the points above, observations on the effect of animal swimming mode and body morphology on biogenic fluid transport will also be presented. It is argued that to inform the debate on whether biogenic mixing can contribute to ocean mixing, our studies should focus on diel vertical migrators that traverse stratified waters of the upper pycnocline. Based on our understanding of mixing mechanisms, body morphologies, swimming modes and body orientation, combined with our knowledge of vertically migrating populations of animals, it is likely that copepods, krill and some species of gelatinous zooplankton and fish have the potential to be strong sources of biogenic mixing.


  • Funding

    Support for this research was provided by the Postdoctoral Scholar Program at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, with funding provided by the Devonshire Foundation.

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