Phytoplankton mucilage production in coastal waters: a dispersal mechanism in a front dominated system? Academic Article uri icon


  • I hypothesise that mucilage production by phytoplankton blooms in coastal waters serves as a dispersal mechanism allowing the transport of cells between different patches of the coastal sea. Cells trapped in mucilaginous foams floating on the sea surface are lofted into the air; resulting in lateral dispersal by winds. Mucilage production by phytoplankton is associated with nutrient limitation and monospecific blooms. Under conditions of nutrient limitation, wind dispersal provides a mechanism to carry the genes of a clonal bloom to areas where growth and replication may continue. In coastal seas, frontal systems form a barrier to lateral movement through the water column; however, the accumulation of mucilage on the surface at fronts provides a mechanism by which wind born transfer may occur. This hypothesis provides a functional explanation for mucilaginous blooms and describes an elaboration of a dispersal mechanism proposed by HAMILTON & LENTON (1998). 1999 Taylor & Francis Group, LLC.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Thornton, D.

citation count

  • 12

complete list of authors

  • Thornton, DCO

publication date

  • April 1999