Modelling emergent trophic strategies in plankton

Ken Haste Andersen, Dag L. Aksnes, Terje Berge, Øyvind Fiksen, Andre Visser

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Plankton are typically divided into phytoplankton and zooplankton in marine ecosystem models. Yet, most protists in the photic zone engage in some degree of phagotrophy, and it has been suggested that trophic strategy is really a continuum between pure phototrophs (phytoplankton) and pure phagotrophs (unicellular zooplankton). Such a continuum of trophic strategies is well represented by trait-based modelling techniques. A key model ingredient is the size of individual cells, as size constrains affinities for nutrient uptake, photosynthesis and active encounter with other cells. We outline a general trait-based model of a unicellular planktonic organism where size is a central trait and where nutrient uptake, photosynthesis and phagotrophy are determined by investments into these functions and by the physical constraints imposed by organism size. This framework provides simple predictions of how trophic strategy correlates with size.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Plankton Research
Issue number5
Pages (from-to)862-868
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • trade-off
  • optimization
  • mixotrophy

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