Gaps and patches in the ocean: A one-dimensional analysis of planktonic distributions

Warren J.S. Currie*, Michel R. Claereboudt, John C. Roff

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Citations (Scopus)


The Optical Plankton Counter (OPC) was used to count individual animals in situ, and to produce a one-dimensional spatial-series from which gap relationships could be quantified at the millimeter scale and above, using a Distance to Next Encounter (DNE) technique. Both DNE and one-dimensional neighbor analyses indicated that zooplankton distributions in all transects were significantly (p < 0.0001) aggregated into patches. Within patches, zooplankton were effectively (r2 = 0.94) randomly distributed, resulting in important implications for some of the newer foraging models concerning zooplankton. The DNE frequency distributions all exhibited a distinct pattern that would not be expected from single Poisson distribution, indicating patchiness at the meter scale. This allowed calculation of various statistics used to describe in situ patchiness such as: relative percentage of a transect occupied by patches (79 to 89%) and gaps, estimates of patch size (~2 m diameter), and patch densities (7000 to 14 000 organisms m-3).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-21
Number of pages7
JournalMarine Ecology Progress Series
Publication statusPublished - Oct 1 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Gaps
  • Patchiness
  • Plankton Zooplankton
  • Transect

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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