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Towards a resolution of ‘the paradox of the plankton’: a brief overview of the proposed mechanisms

Roy, S. and Chattopadhyay, J. (2007) Towards a resolution of ‘the paradox of the plankton’: a brief overview of the proposed mechanisms. Ecological Complexity, 4 (1-2). pp. 26-33. ISSN 1476-945X

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1016/j.ecocom.2007.02.016

Abstract/Summary

In plankton ecology, it is a fundamental question as to how a large number of competing phytoplankton species coexist in marine ecosystems under a seemingly-limited variety of resources. This ever-green question was first proposed by Hutchinson [Hutchinson, G.E., 1961. The paradox of the plankton. Am. Nat. 95, 137–145] as ‘the paradox of the plankton’. Starting from Hutchinson [Hutchinson, G.E., 1961. The paradox of the plankton. Am. Nat. 95, 137–145], over more than four decades several investigators have put forward varieties of mechanisms for the extreme diversity of phytoplankton species. In this article, within the boundary of our knowledge, we review the literature of the proposed solutions and give a brief overview of the mechanisms proposed so far. The proposed mechanisms that we discuss mainly include spatial and temporal heterogeneity in physical and biological environment, externally imposed or self-generated spatial segregation, horizontal mesoscale turbulence of ocean characterized by coherent vortices, oscillation and chaos generated by several internal and external causes, stable coexistence and compensatory dynamics under fluctuating temperature in resource competition, and finally the role of toxin-producing phytoplankton in maintaining the coexistence and biodiversity of the overall plankton population that we have proposed recently. We find that, although the different mechanisms proposed so far is potentially applicable to specific ecosystems, a universally accepted theory for explaining plankton diversity in natural waters is still an unachieved goal.

Item Type:Article
Refereed:Yes
Divisions:Faculty of Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:36885
Publisher:Elsevier

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