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Differential Equations for Phytoplankton-Nutrient Ecosystems (DEPHYNE)

SRI 'Differential Equations for Phytoplankton-Nutrient Ecosystems (DEPHYNE)'


Marine phytoplankton perform half of the global photosynthetic CO2 fixation and form the essential base of the marine food chain. Due to climate change (global warming and changing weather patterns) and other human influence (e.g. effluent discharge), water ecosystems need to adapt to changing environmental conditions. This adaptation is complex, since it depends highly nonlinearly on the environmental conditions and is heterogeneous in space and time.

Fundamental ecology in water (rivers, lakes and oceans) can be studied through various nutrient(N)-phytoplankton(P)-zooplankton(Z) models. Traditionally, such models consist of a system of nonlinear ordinary differential equations (ODEs) that resemble predator-prey models. There is an extensive body of literature analysing such models, describing the various types of solutions, including stable equilibria, limit cycles and chaos. However, these ODE models are very highly idealised compared to the rich dynamic spatial environments that our rivers, lakes and oceans are. Extensions of such models to include more realism and complexity (including PDEs, FDEs, and S(P)DEs) are still under-explored both in terms of mathematical behaviour as well as practical applicability.

This 4TU-AMI Strategic Research Initiative (SRI) aims at bringing together researchers from the 4TUs and other Dutch universities and research institutes to identify research opportunities in the field of mathematical phytoplankton modelling. We especially encourage tenure trackers to take initiative in this SRI.

This SRI started on 01-09-2022 and aims to reach its goals before 01-09-2024.


  1. Identify research opportunities in the field of mathematical phytoplankton modelling, inspired by field observations and open questions in the mathematical behaviour of plankton models.
  2. Create a network of researchers working in the field of phytoplankton modelling ranging from (experimental) biologists to (applied) mathematicians.


DIAM, TU Delft:

Biometris, Wageningen University & Research: