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Keywords:

  • resource competition;
  • ecology;
  • ocean biogeochemistry

[1] We examine the interplay between ecology and biogeochemical cycles in the context of a global three-dimensional ocean model where self-assembling phytoplankton communities emerge from a wide set of potentially viable cell types. We consider the complex model solutions in the light of resource competition theory. The emergent community structures and ecological regimes vary across different physical environments in the model ocean: Strongly seasonal, high-nutrient regions are dominated by fast growing bloom specialists, while stable, low-seasonality regions are dominated by organisms that can grow at low nutrient concentrations and are suited to oligotrophic conditions. In the latter regions, the framework of resource competition theory provides a useful qualitative and quantitative diagnostic tool with which to interpret the outcome of competition between model organisms, their regulation of the resource environment, and the sensitivity of the system to changes in key physiological characteristics of the cells.