The ecological importance of mixoplankton within marine protist communities is slowly being recognized. However, most aquatic ecosystem models do not include formulations to model a complete protist community consisting of phytoplankton, protozooplankton and mixoplankton. We introduce PROTIST, a new module for the aquatic ecosystem modelling software Delft3D-WAQ that can model a protist community consisting of two types of phytoplankton (diatoms and green algae), two types of mixoplankton (constitutive mixoplankton and non-constitutive mixoplankton) and protozooplankton. We employed PROTIST to further explore the hypothesis that the biogeochemical gradient of inorganic nutrient and suspended sediment concentrations drives the observed occurrence of constitutive mixoplankton in the Dutch Southern North Sea. To explore this hypothesis, we used 11 1D-vertical aquatic ecosystem models that mimic the abiotic conditions of 11 routine monitoring locations in the Dutch Southern North Sea. Our models result in plausible trophic compositions across the biogeochemical gradient as compared to in-situ data. A sensitivity analysis showed that the dissolved inorganic phosphate and silica concentrations drive the occurrence of constitutive mixoplankton in the Dutch Southern North Sea.
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