DetailsPermalink to Details
- Added to the Catalog
- Available for
- Water: Ocean Currents and Circulation, Life
- Carbon Cycle
- Carbon Dioxide
- Marine Ecosystems
- Marine Science
- Ocean Circulation
- Primary Productivity
DescriptionPermalink to Description
Phytoplankton are the base of the marine food web and are crucial players in the Earth's carbon cycle. They are also incredibly diverse. This visualization shows dominant phytoplankton types from 1994-1998 generated by the Darwin Project using a high-resolution ocean and ecosystem model. The model contains flow fields from 1994-1999 (generated by the ECCO2 model), inorganic nutrients, 78 species of phytoplankton, zooplankton, as well as particulate and dissolved organic matter. Colors represent the most dominant type of phytoplankton at a given location based on their size and ability to uptake nutrients. Red represents diatoms (big phytoplankton, which need silica), yellow represents flagellates (other big phytoplankton), green represents prochlorococcus (small phytoplankton that cannot use nitrate), and cyan represents synechococcus (other small phytoplankton). Opacity indicates concentration of the phytoplankton as carbon biomass.
The large phytoplankton (red, yellow) have fastest growth rates and dominate where there are lots of nutrients to nourish them at high latitudes and near the equator where nutrient-rich water upwells from the deep ocean. On the other hand, the small phytoplankton (green, blue) are more competitive where nutrients are very low.
A key part of the Darwin Project is developing theoretical and numerical models of the marine ecosystems. The data shown here are from a simulation of the Darwin model in a physical run of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) general circulation model by the Estimating the Circulation and Climate of the Ocean (ECCO) group. The model provides a laboratory to explore the controls on biodiversity and the biogeography of different phytoplankton species. In particular, the role of the swirls and filaments (mesoscale features) appear important in maintaining high biodiversity in the ocean.
Next Generation Science StandardsPermalink to Next Generation Science Standards
Cross-cutting ConceptsPermalink to Cross-cutting Concepts
C1 Patterns. Children recognize that patterns in the natural and human designed world can be observed, used to describe phenomena, and used as evidence
C2 Cause and Effect. Students learn that events have causes that generate observable patterns. They design simple tests to gather evidence to support or refute their own ideas about causes.
C1 Patterns. Students identify similarities and differences in order to sort and classify natural objects and designed products. They identify patterns related to time, including simple rates of change and cycles, and to use these patterns to make predictions.
C2 Cause and Effect. Students routinely identify and test causal relationships and use these relationships to explain change. They understand events that occur together with regularity might or might not signify a cause and effect relationship
C3 Scale Proportion and Quantity. Students recognize natural objects and observable phenomena exist from the very small to the immensely large. They use standard units to measure and describe physical quantities such as weight, time, temperature, and volume.
C5 Energy and Matter. Students learn matter is made of particles and energy can be transferred in various ways and between objects. Students observe the conservation of matter by tracking matter flows and cycles before and after processes and recognizing the total weight of substances does not change.
C1 Patterns. Students recognize that macroscopic patterns are related to the nature of microscopic and atomic-level structure. They identify patterns in rates of change and other numerical relationships that provide information about natural and human designed systems. They use patterns to identify cause and effect relationships, and use graphs and charts to identify patterns in data.
C2 Cause and Effect. Students classify relationships as causal or correlational, and recognize that correlation does not necessarily imply causation. They use cause and effect relationships to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems. They also understand that phenomena may have more than one cause, and some cause and effect relationships in systems can only be described using probability.
C5 Energy and Matter. Students learn matter is conserved because atoms are conserved in physical and chemical processes. They also learn within a natural or designed system, the transfer of energy drives the motion and/or cycling of matter. Energy may take different forms (e.g. energy in fields, thermal energy, energy of motion). The transfer of energy can be tracked as energy flows through a designed or natural system.
C6 Structures and Functions. Students model complex and microscopic structures and systems and visualize how their function depends on the shapes, composition, and relationships among its parts. They analyze many complex natural and designed structures and systems to determine how they function. They design structures to serve particular functions by taking into account properties of different materials, and how materials can be shaped and used.
C1 Patterns. Students observe patterns in systems at different scales and cite patterns as empirical evidence for causality in supporting their explanations of phenomena. They recognize classifications or explanations used at one scale may not be useful or need revision using a different scale; thus requiring improved investigations and experiments. They use mathematical representations to identify certain patterns and analyze patterns of performance in order to re-engineer and improve a designed system.
C2 Cause and Effect. Students understand that empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and to make claims about specific causes and effects. They suggest cause and effect relationships to explain and predict behaviors in complex natural and designed systems. They also propose causal relationships by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system. They recognize changes in systems may have various causes that may not have equal effects.
C5 Energy and Matter. Students learn that the total amount of energy and matter in closed systems is conserved. They can describe changes of energy and matter in a system in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system. They also learn that energy cannot be created or destroyed. It only moves between one place and another place, between objects and/or fields, or between systems. Energy drives the cycling of matter within and between systems. In nuclear processes, atoms are not conserved, but the total number of protons plus neutrons is conserved.
C6 Structures and Functions. Students investigate systems by examining the properties of different materials, the structures of different components, and their interconnections to reveal the system’s function and/or solve a problem. They infer the functions and properties of natural and designed objects and systems from their overall structure, the way their components are shaped and used, and the molecular substructures of their various materials.
Disciplinary Core IdeasPermalink to Disciplinary Core Ideas
ESS2.C The Roles of Water in Earth's Processes. Water is found in many types of places and in different forms on Earth
LS1.A Structure and Function. All organisms have external parts that they use to perform daily functions.
LS2.A Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems. Plants depend on water and light to grow, and also depend on animals for pollination or to move their seeds around.
LS2.B Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems. Organisms obtain the materials they need to grow and survive from the environment. Many of these materials come from organisms and are used again by other organisms
ESS2.A Earth Materials and Systems. Four major Earth systems interact. Rainfall helps to shape the land and affects the types of living things found in a region. Water, ice, wind, organisms, and gravity break rocks, soils, and sediments into smaller pieces and move them around
ESS2.C The Roles of Water in Earth's Processes. Most of Earth’s water is in the ocean and much of the Earth’s fresh water is in glaciers or underground.
LS1.A Structure and Function. Organisms have both internal and external macroscopic structures that allow for growth, survival, behavior, and reproduction.
LS2.A Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems. The food of almost any animal can be traced back to plants. Organisms are related in food webs in which some animals eat plants for food and other animals eat the animals that eat plants, while decomposers restore some materials back to the soil.
LS2.B Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems. Matter cycles between the air and soil and among organisms as they live and die.
PS3.D Energy in Chemical Process and Everyday Life. Energy can be “produced,” “used,” or “released” by converting stored energy. Plants capture energy from sunlight, which can later be used as fuel or food.
ESS2.A Earth Materials and Systems. Energy flows and matter cycles within and among Earth’s systems, including the sun and Earth’s interior as primary energy sources. Plate tectonics is one result of these processes.
ESS2.C The Roles of Water in Earth's Processes. Water cycles among land, ocean, and atmosphere, and is propelled by sunlight and gravity. Density variations of sea water drive interconnected ocean currents. Water movement causes weathering and erosion, changing landscape features.
LS1.A Structure and Function. All living things are made up of cells. In organisms, cells work together to form tissues and organs that are specialized for particular body functions
LS2.A Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems. Organisms and populations are dependent on their environmental interactions both with other living things and with nonliving factors, any of which can limit their growth. Competitive, predatory, and mutually beneficial interactions vary across ecosystems but the patterns are shared.
LS2.B Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems. The atoms that make up the organisms in an ecosystem are cycled repeatedly between the living and nonliving parts of the ecosystem. Food webs model how matter and energy are transferred among producers, consumers, and decomposers as the three groups interact within an ecosystem.
PS3.D Energy in Chemical Process and Everyday Life. Sunlight is captured by plants and used in a reaction to produce sugar molecules, which can be reversed by burning those molecules to release energy
ESS2.A Earth Materials and Systems. Feedback effects exist within and among Earth’s systems.The geological record shows that changes to global and regional climate can be caused by interactions among changes in the sun’s energy output or Earth’s orbit, tectonic events, ocean circulation, volcanic activity, glaciers, vegetation, and human activities.
ESS2.C The Roles of Water in Earth's Processes. The planet’s dynamics are greatly influenced by water’s unique chemical and physical properties.
LS1.A Structure and Function. Systems of specialized cells within organisms help perform essential functions of life. Any one system in an organism is made up of numerous parts. Feedback mechanisms maintain an organism’s internal conditions within certain limits and mediate behaviors.
LS2.A Interdependent Relationships in Ecosystems. Ecosystems have carrying capacities resulting from biotic and abiotic factors. The fundamental tension between resource availability and organism populations affects the abundance of species in any given ecosystem.
LS2.B Cycles of Matter and Energy Transfer in Ecosystems. Photosynthesis and cellular respiration provide most of the energy for life processes. Only a fraction of matter consumed at the lower level of a food web is transferred up, resulting in fewer organisms at higher levels. At each link in an ecosystem elements are combined in different ways and matter and energy are conserved. Photosynthesis and cellular respiration are key components of the global carbon cycle.
PS3.D Energy in Chemical Process and Everyday Life. Photosynthesis is the primary biological means of capturing radiation from the sun; energy cannot be destroyed, it can be converted to less useful forms.
Notable FeaturesPermalink to Notable Features
- The large phytoplankton (red, yellow) have fastest growth rates and dominate where there are lots of nutrients to nourish them at high latitudes and near the equator where nutrient-rich water upwell from the deep ocean.
- The small phytoplankton (green, blue) are more competitive where nutrients are very low.
Data SourcePermalink to Data Source
MIT Darwin Project, MITgcm, ECCO-2 Model - NASA Modeling, Analysis, and Prediction