A deterministic mechanism for the production of plankton patches within a typical medium scale oceanic structure is proposed and investigated. By direct numerical simulation of a simple model of Langmuir circulation we quantify the effects of unsteady flows on planktonic communities and demonstrate their importance. Two qualitatively different zones within the flow are identified: chaotic regions that help to spread plankton and locally coherent regions, that do not mix with the chaotic regions and which persist for long periods of time. The relative importance of these regions to both phytoplankton and zooplankton is investigated, taking into account variations in plankton buoyancy. In particular, species-specific retention zone structure is discussed in relation to variations in environmental forcing
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