Biological propulsion in (and of?) the ocean
Biologically generated turbulence has been proposed as an important contributor to nutrient transport and ocean mixing. However, to produce non-negligible transport and mixing, such turbulence must produce eddies at scales comparable to the length scales of stratification in the ocean. It has previously been argued that biologically generated turbulence is limited to the scale of the individual animals involved, which would make turbulence created by highly abundant centimeter-scale zooplankton such as krill irrelevant to ocean mixing. Their small size notwithstanding, zooplankton form dense aggregations tens of meters in vertical extent as they undergo diurnal vertical migration over hundreds of meters. This behavior potentially introduces additional length scales that are of relevance to animal interactions with the surrounding water column. This talk will describe experiments showing that collective vertical migration of centimeter-scale swimmers generates aggregation-scale eddies that mix a stable density stratification, resulting in an effective turbulent diffusivity up to three orders of magnitude larger than the molecular diffusivity of salt. These observed large-scale mixing eddies are the result of flow in the wakes of the individual organisms coalescing to form a large-scale downward jet during upward swimming, even in the presence of a strong density stratification relative to typical values observed in the ocean. The results illustrate the potential for marine zooplankton to considerably alter the physical and biogeochemical structure of the water column, with potentially widespread effects owing to their high abundance in climatically important regions of the ocean.
Contact: Wesley Yu at (915) 309-7972 firstname.lastname@example.org