Causal mechanisms of the deep chlorophyll maximum in Lake Superior: A numerical modeling investigation

Brooke White, Katsumi Matsumoto

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


The deep chlorophyll maximum (DCM) is a near ubiquitous feature in Lake Superior during the summer stratified season. Previous studies have elucidated observable characteristics of the DCM in Lake Superior but the physical and biological mechanisms controlling the creation and maintenance of the DCM remained unclear. We use a three-dimensional hydrodynamic model of Lake Superior coupled to an ecological model to perform sensitivity runs exploring the influence of photoadaptation, photoinhibition, zooplankton grazing, and phytoplankton sinking on the vertical distribution of chlorophyll in the water column. The role of a nutricline in determining the presence and nature of the DCM is also explored. The presence of the DCM is dependent upon the presence of thermal stratification in the model. The sensitivity runs reveal that photoadaptation plays a primary role in determining the depth of the DCM in the model while zooplankton grazing and phytoplankton sinking affected the magnitude but not the presence or depth of the DCM. Photoinhibition showed negligible effects on chlorophyll concentration distribution. The presence of a nutricline in the model is also a necessary condition for the formation of the DCM and it influences both the depth and magnitude of the DCM.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)504-513
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Funding for this work was provided by the National Science Foundation ( NSF-OCE-0825576 to KM) and by the University of Minnesota McKnight Land Grant Professorship to KM. Support for BW was provided by the University of Minnesota Doctoral Dissertation Fellowship and graduate fellowships from the University of Minnesota Department of Earth Sciences . R. Sterner and B. Seegers motivated this study through their research and R. Sterner provided useful advice.


  • Deep chlorophyll maximum
  • Lake superior
  • Numerical modeling


Dive into the research topics of 'Causal mechanisms of the deep chlorophyll maximum in Lake Superior: A numerical modeling investigation'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this