Modeling diel vertical migration with membrane computing

Manuel García-Quismondo, William D. Hintz, Matthew S. Schuler, Rick A. Relyea

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Diel vertical migration (DVM) is an important ecological phenomenon in which zooplankton migrate vertically to deal with trade-offs associated with greater food availability in shallow waters and lower predator risk in deep waters due to lower light availability. Because of these trade-offs, DVM dynamics are particularly sensitive to changes in light intensity at the water surface. Therefore, changes in the proportion of cloudy and sunny days have the potential to disrupt DVM dynamics. We propose a new membrane computing model that captures the effect of cloud cover on DVM in Daphnia, and we use it to explore the impacts of an increased proportion of cloudy days that are predicted to occur with climate change. Our 2-dimensional, spatially explicit model integrates multiple trophic levels from abiotic nutrients to Daphnia predators. We analyzed the effect that different proportions of cloudy and sunny days throughout the summer have on our model. The model simulations suggest that an increase in sunny days promotes a high phytoplankton concentration near the surface but does not necessarily promote an increased abundance of Daphnia. Our model also suggests that a higher proportion of cloudy days would increase Daphnia abundance due to a shift in the vertical distribution of Daphnia populations towards superficial waters. Our results highlight that climate changes in multiple regions will affect animal migrations leading to altered food web dynamics in freshwater ecosystems, and emphasize the potential of membrane computing as a modeling framework for spatially and temporally explicit ecological processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-50
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of Membrane Computing
Issue number1
StatePublished - Mar 2021


  • Daphnia
  • Diel vertical migration
  • Limnology
  • Mathematical modeling
  • Population dynamics
  • Simulation


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