Summary: Predator-prey communities are building blocks of an ecosystem. Feeding rates reflect interference between predators in several situations, e.g. when predators form a dense colony or perform collective motion in a school, encounter prey in a region of limited size, etc. We perform spatio-temporal dynamics and pattern formation in a model aquatic system in both homogeneous and heterogeneous environments. Zooplanktons are predated by fishes and interfere with individuals of their own community. Numerical simulations are carried out to explore Turing and non-Turing spatial patterns. We also examine the effect of spatial heterogeneity on the spatio-temporal dynamics of the phytoplankton-zooplankton system. The phytoplankton specific growth rate is assumed to be a linear function of the depth of the water body.
It is found that the spatio-temporal dynamics of an aquatic system is governed by three important factors: (i) intensity of interference between the zooplankton, (ii) rate of fish predation and (iii) the spatial heterogeneity. In an homogeneous environment, the temporal dynamics of prey and predator species are drastically different. While prey species density evolves chaotically, predator densities execute a regular motion irrespective of the intensity of fish predation. When the spatial heterogeneity is included, the two species oscillate in unison. It has been found that the instability observed in the model aquatic system is diffusion driven and fish predation acts as a regularizing factor. We also observed that spatial heterogeneity stabilizes the system. The idea contained in the paper provides a better understanding of the pattern formation in aquatic systems.