Steady-state solutions for subsurface chlorophyll maximum in stratified water columns with a bell-shaped vertical profile of chlorophyll
Abstract. A bell-shaped vertical profile of chlorophyll a (Chl a) concentration, conventionally referred to as a subsurface chlorophyll maximum (SCM) phenomenon, has frequently been observed in stratified oceans and lakes. This profile is assumed to be a general Gaussian distribution in this study. By substituting the general Gaussian function into ecosystem dynamical equations, the steady-state solutions for SCM characteristics (i.e., SCM layer depth, thickness, and intensity) in various scenarios are derived. These solutions indicate that (1) the maximum concentration of Chl a occurs at or below the depth of maximum growth rates of phytoplankton located at the transition from nutrient limitation to light limitation, and the depth of SCM layer deepens logarithmically with an increase in surface light intensity; (2) thickness and intensity of the SCM layer are mainly affected by nutrient supply, but independent of surface light intensity; and (3) intensity of the SCM layer is proportional to the diffusive flux of nutrients from below, which becomes stronger as a result of this layer being shrunk by a higher light attenuation coefficient or a larger sinking velocity of phytoplankton. In addition, the limitation and potential application of the analytical solutions are also presented.