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Directional and Spectral Irradiance in Ocean Models: Effects on Simulated Global Phytoplankton, Nutrients, and Primary ProductionThe importance of including directional and spectral light in simulations of ocean radiative transfer was investigated using a coupled biogeochemical-circulation-radiative model of the global oceans. The effort focused on phytoplankton abundances, nutrient concentrations and vertically-integrated net primary production. The importance was approached by sequentially removing directional (i.e., direct vs. diffuse) and spectral irradiance and comparing results of the above variables to a fully directionally and spectrally-resolved model. In each case the total irradiance was kept constant; it was only the pathways and spectral nature that were changed. Assuming all irradiance was diffuse had negligible effect on global ocean primary production. Global nitrate and total chlorophyll concentrations declined by about 20% each. The largest changes occurred in the tropics and sub-tropics rather than the high latitudes, where most of the irradiance is already diffuse. Disregarding spectral irradiance had effects that depended upon the choice of attenuation wavelength. The wavelength closest to the spectrally-resolved model, 500 nm, produced lower nitrate (19%) and chlorophyll (8%) and higher primary production (2%) than the spectral model. Phytoplankton relative abundances were very sensitive to the choice of non-spectral wavelength transmittance. The combined effects of neglecting both directional and spectral irradiance exacerbated the differences, despite using attenuation at 500 nm. Global nitrate decreased 33% and chlorophyll decreased 24%. Changes in phytoplankton community structure were considerable, representing a change from chlorophytes to cyanobacteria and coccolithophores. This suggested a shift in community function, from light-limitation to nutrient limitation: lower demands for nutrients from cyanobacteria and coccolithophores favored them over the more nutrient-demanding chlorophytes. Although diatoms have the highest nutrient demands in the model, their relative abundances were generally unaffected because they only prosper in nutrient-rich regions, such as the high latitudes and upwelling regions, which showed the fewest effects from the changes in radiative simulations. The results showed that including directional and spectral irradiance when simulating the ocean light field can be important for ocean biology, but the magnitude varies with variables and regions. The quantitative results are intended to assist ocean modelers when considering improved irradiance representations relative to other processes or variables associated with the issues of interest.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
Gregg, Watson W. (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Greenbelt, MD United States)
Rousseaux, Cecile S. (Universities Space Research Association Greenbelt, MD, United States)
Date Acquired
May 15, 2017
Publication Date
November 22, 2016
Publication Information
Publication: Frontiers in Marine Science
Volume: 3
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