• biofilm;
  • biostabilization;
  • bistability;
  • light;
  • tides;
  • waves

[1] We propose a simple model for growth of benthic biofilm subject to variable hydrodynamic disturbances and with a biofilm-dependent erodibility (biostabilization). Model results show that, for disturbances with equal intensity, the biofilm is eroded or not depending on its current biomass, which is a function of the past evolution trajectory. Because of the finite time needed for a biofilm to develop, both the intensity and frequency of periodical disturbances, such as tidal currents, determine whether the biofilm can approach its equilibrium biomass. Spring-neap tidal modulation favors biofilm development, since the reduction of the current shear stress associated with neap tides allows biofilm growth, thus increasing biostabilization and the biofilm's likelihood to withstand the subsequent energetic spring tides. On the other hand, diurnal tidal modulations are negative for biofilm development, because the diel biofilm growth is almost negligible. Under stochastic disturbances associated with wind waves, there are two most-likely states for the biofilm biomass: either close to zero or close to the equilibrium value, depending on wave intensity. If biostabilization is reduced or eliminated, the probability of intermediate values for biofilm biomass becomes also significant. The role of biostabilization is hence to exacerbate the probability of the end-member states. Finally, because of the nonmonotonic relationship between water depth and wave induced bed stresses, only extremely shallow and deep areas favor biofilm persistence. If light attenuation with depth is considered, deep water becomes unsuitable for biofilm growth when water turbidity is high.