How does limitations set by physics constrain the primary production in the world’s oceans?

Wednesday 15 Mar 23


Ken Haste Andersen
Professor, Head of Section
DTU Aqua
+45 35 88 33 99


Andre Visser
DTU Aqua
+45 35 88 34 25

How will the biology of plankton communities change in response to global change, and how will these changes impact ecosystem functions such as primary production that will be available to fisheries production. Traditional models are successfully deployed in regional seas and calibrated to current-day conditions. Two scientists from the Center of Ocean Life have explored whether it is possible to calibrate plankton models using only “first principles”: the rules of the natural world whose validity are considered fundamental and unchanging, such as those from physics, the limitations of geometry, and that all life is optimized by natural selection. Working from a model that describes plankton just by cell sizes they can predict the structure of the plankton community. Further, they predict which strategies plankton uses to gain resources: photosynthesis, uptake of dissolved nutrients and carbon, and predation on smaller cells. The model framework can be used to understand plankton communities in the Earth’s distant past and in the future.

The model is available online on:

Read more about the model in the paper here: 

Andersen, K. H., and A. W. Visser. 2023. From cell size and first principles to structure and function of unicellular plankton communities. Prog. Oceanogr. 213: 102995. doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2023.102995