Disparities between in situ and optically derived carbon biomass and growth rates of the prymnesiophyte Phaeocystis globosa
Abstract. The oceans play a pivotal role in the global carbon cycle. It is not practical to measure the global daily production of organic carbon, the product of phytoplankton standing stock and its growth rate using discrete oceanographic methods. Instead, optical proxies from Earth-orbiting satellites must be used. To test the accuracy of optically derived proxies of phytoplankton physiology and growth rate, hyperspectral reflectance data from the wax and wane of a Phaeocystis bloom in laboratory mesocosms were compared with standard ex situ data. Chlorophyll biomass could be estimated accurately from reflectance using specific chlorophyll absorption algorithms. However, the conversion of chlorophyll (Chl) to carbon (C) was obscured by the non-linear increase in C : Chl under nutrient-limited growth. Although C : Chl was inversely correlated (r2 = 0.88) with the in situ fluorometric growth rate indicator Fv / Fm (Photosystem II quantum efficiency), none of them was linearly correlated to growth rate, constraining the accurate calculation of Phaeocystis growth or production rates. Unfortunately, the optical proxy ϕph (quantum efficiency of fluorescence: the ratio of the number of fluoresced photons to the number of photons absorbed by the phytoplankton) did not show any correlation with Phaeocystis growth rate, and therefore it is concluded that ϕph cannot be applied in the remotely sensed measurement of this species' carbon production rate.