Individual-Based Modelling of the Development and Transport of a Karenia mikimotoi Bloom on the North-West European Continental Shelf

Philip Gillibrand, Beatrix Siemering, Peter Miller, Keith Davidson

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In 2006, a large and prolonged bloom of the dinoflagellate Karenia mikimotoi occurred in Scottish coastal waters, causing extensive mortalities of benthic organisms including annelids and molluscs and some species of fish (Davidson et al., 2009). A coupled hydrodynamic-algal transport model was developed to track the progression of the bloom around the Scottish coast during June – September 2006 and hence investigate the processes controlling the bloom dynamics. Within this individual-based model, cells were capable of growth, mortality and phototaxis and were transported by physical processes of advection and turbulent diffusion, using current velocities extracted from operational simulations of the MRCS ocean circulation model of the North-west European continental shelf. Vertical and horizontal turbulent diffusion of cells are treated using a random walk approach. Comparison of model output with remotely sensed chlorophyll concentrations and cell counts from coastal monitoring stations indicated that it was necessary to include multiple spatially distinct seed populations of K. mikimotoi at separate locations on the shelf edge to capture the qualitative pattern of bloom transport and development. We interpret this as indicating that the source population was being transported northwards by the Hebridean slope current from where colonies of K. mikimotoi were injected onto the continental shelf by eddies or other transient exchange processes. The model was used to investigate the effects on simulated K. mikimotoi transport and dispersal of: 1) the distribution of the initial seed population; 2) algal growth and mortality; 3) water temperature; 4) the vertical movement of particles by diurnal migration and eddy diffusion; 5) the relative role of the shelf edge and coastal currents; 6) the role of wind forcing. The numerical experiments emphasized the requirement for a physiologically based biological model and indicated that improved modelling of future blooms will potentially benefit from better parameterisation of temperature dependence of both growth and mortality and finer spatial and temporal hydrodynamic resolution.
Original languageEnglish
JournalHarmful Algae
Publication statusPublished - 3 May 2016


  • Karenia mikimotoi
  • particle tracking model
  • coastal waters
  • bio-physical model


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