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Tracking the long-distance dispersal of marine organisms: sensitivity to ocean model resolution

TitleTracking the long-distance dispersal of marine organisms: sensitivity to ocean model resolution
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsPutman, NF, He, R
JournalJournal of The Royal Society Interface
Volume10
Pagination20120979
ISSN1742-5689, 1742-5662
KeywordsDispersal, North Atlantic, ocean circulation model, Particle tracking, pleuston, sea turtle
Abstract

Ocean circulation models are widely used to simulate organism transport in the open sea, where challenges of directly tracking organisms across vast spatial and temporal scales are daunting. Many recent studies tout the use of ‘high-resolution’ models, which are forced with atmospheric data on the scale of several hours and integrated with a time step of several minutes or seconds. However, in many cases, the model's outputs that are used to simulate organism movement have been averaged to considerably coarser resolutions (e.g. monthly mean velocity fields). To examine the sensitivity of tracking results to ocean circulation model output resolution, we took the native model output of one of the most sophisticated ocean circulation models available, the Global Hybrid Coordinate Ocean Model, and averaged it to commonly implemented spatial and temporal resolutions in studies of basin-scale dispersal. Comparisons between simulated particle trajectories and in situ near-surface drifter trajectories indicated that ‘over averaging’ model output yields predictions inconsistent with observations. Further analyses focused on the dispersal of juvenile sea turtles indicate that very different inferences regarding the pelagic ecology of these animals are obtained depending on the resolution of model output. We conclude that physical processes occurring at the scale of days and tens of kilometres should be preserved in ocean circulation model output to realistically depict the movement marine organisms and the resulting ecological and evolutionary processes.

URLhttp://rsif.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/10/81/20120979
DOI10.1098/rsif.2012.0979