, Volume 2, Issue 5, pp 384–394

Spatial Structure of Pelagic Ecosystem Processes in the Global Ocean

  • Trevor  Platt
  • Shubha  Sathyendranath

DOI: 10.1007/s100219900088

Cite this article as:
Platt, T. & Sathyendranath, S. Ecosystems (1999) 2: 384. doi:10.1007/s100219900088


We propose an operational definition of spatial structure in the oceanic ecosystem; it is equivalent to the large-scale, horizontal distribution of the dominant ecophysiological rate parameters for the questions of interest. In an important, particular case, the relevant rate parameters are those that characterize autotrophic production. In the ocean, these parameters are believed to be distributed in a manner that is not smoothly continuous. Rather, they seem to have a piecewise continuous distribution. This leads to a requirement to partition the ocean into a suite of provinces where the boundaries between the provinces mark the locations of abrupt changes in the magnitudes of the rate parameters. The area covered by a particular province represents an area of common physical forcing, insofar as the forcing is relevant to autotrophic production. The boundaries are taken to be elastic rather than fixed, such that they can respond to variations in forcing. At any given time, the boundaries can be located with the aid of remotely sensed imagery, especially ocean-color imagery.

Key words: pelagic ecosystem; structure and function; global ocean; remote sensing; photosynthesis parameters; biogeochemical provinces. 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag New York Inc. 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Trevor  Platt
    • 1
  • Shubha  Sathyendranath
    • 1
  1. 1.Biological Oceanography Division, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Box 1006, Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, Canada B2Y 4A2 CA
  2. 2.Department of Oceanography, Dalhousie University, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada B3H 4J1 CA

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