About this Research Topic
Phytoplankton and zooplankton, as primary and secondary producers, are key components of the marine foodweb. There is therefore much interest in understanding how plankton communities will respond to environmental changes, including climate change. At the organism level, recent decades have seen substantial advancements in modelling flexible physiological and behavioural responses such as photoacclimation, optimal resource allocation, and adaptive feeding. Because of fundamental trade-offs in competitive abilities, organisms differ in their intrinsic fundamental niches and therefore respond differently to environmental change. As a result of the variety of these responses, asynchrony in population dynamics should have a buffering effect on overall ecosystem properties, as embodied in the insurance hypothesis of diversity. To test such ideas, models have been developed to represent the ecological dynamics of diverse communities, either by resolving multiple species or in terms of aggregate community properties. Very few studies, however, have yet combined organism-level flexibility with ecological dynamics. On the empirical side, controlled laboratory experiments have produced useful data on the size scaling of phytoplankton traits, although for only a limited number of species. By contrast, oceanic observations (both remote and in situ) have provided information on the overall ecosystem response and community compositions, albeit in less detail compared to laboratory studies. Challenges remain to combine physiology and behaviour with ecology and furthermore to integrate into a consistent framework both the findings of controlled laboratory experiments and oceanic observations. With this Research Topic we seek contributions that address these challenges using purely theoretical investigations, model-data comparisons, and observation-based studies. We welcome original research articles, methods, perspectives, opinions, and reviews.
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