Thermodynamics of the Pelagic Ecosystem: Elementary Closure Conditions for Biological Production in the Open Ocean

  • Trevor Platt
  • Marlon Lewis
  • Richard Geider
Part of the NATO Conference Series book series (NATOCS, volume 13)


In the pelagic zone of the ocean, the primordial ecological event is the conversion by phytoplankton of radiant energy from the sun into biochemical energy. The rate at which this process proceeds is called the primary production of the ocean. In spite of its fundamental importance and its profound significance for the tropho-dynamics of the marine ecosystem, the absolute magnitude of primary production in the ocean is still uncertain to within a factor of ten (Eppley, 1980). More than 50 years of research effort have gone into its measurement, including 30 years with a high precision isotopic tracer technique: but instead of converging on some generally accepted figures, the estimates continue to diverge (Steemann Nielsen, 1954; Platt and Subba Rao, 1975; Eppley and Peterson, 1979; Peterson, 1980). It has become conventional, if not ritualistic, for any inconsistencies in independent estimates to be laid at the door of the 14C method (Williams, 1981). The technique with the highest potential precision is therefore in danger of losing (has lost?) credibility on the grounds of accuracy. If primary production estimates up to two orders of magnitude higher than the 14C figures can be given serious consideration in the literature (Sheldon and Sutcliffe, 1978; Gieskes et al., 1979; Johnson et al., 1981; Shulenberger and Reid, 1981) why not three orders or four orders higher?


Photosynthetically Active Radiation Particulate Organic Carbon Euphotic Zone Community Respiration Nitrogen Flux 
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Copyright information

© Plenum Press, New York 1984

Authors and Affiliations

  • Trevor Platt
    • 1
  • Marlon Lewis
    • 1
    • 2
  • Richard Geider
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Marine Ecology LaboratoryBedford Institute of OceanographyDartmouthCanada
  2. 2.Dept. of BiologyDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada
  3. 3.Dept. of OceanographyDalhousie UniversityHalifaxCanada

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