Articles | Volume 8, issue 2
Research article
11 Feb 2011
Research article |  | 11 Feb 2011

Synoptic relationships between surface Chlorophyll-a and diagnostic pigments specific to phytoplankton functional types

T. Hirata, N. J. Hardman-Mountford, R. J. W. Brewin, J. Aiken, R. Barlow, K. Suzuki, T. Isada, E. Howell, T. Hashioka, M. Noguchi-Aita, and Y. Yamanaka

Abstract. Error-quantified, synoptic-scale relationships between chlorophyll-a (Chl-a) and phytoplankton pigment groups at the sea surface are presented. A total of ten pigment groups were considered to represent three Phytoplankton Size Classes (PSCs, micro-, nano- and picoplankton) and seven Phytoplankton Functional Types (PFTs, i.e. diatoms, dinoflagellates, green algae, prymnesiophytes (haptophytes), pico-eukaryotes, prokaryotes and Prochlorococcus sp.). The observed relationships between Chl-a and PSCs/PFTs were well-defined at the global scale to show that a community shift of phytoplankton at the basin and global scales is reflected by a change in Chl-a of the total community. Thus, Chl-a of the total community can be used as an index of not only phytoplankton biomass but also of their community structure. Within these relationships, we also found non-monotonic variations with Chl-a for certain pico-sized phytoplankton (pico-eukaryotes, Prokaryotes and Prochlorococcus sp.) and nano-sized phytoplankton (Green algae, prymnesiophytes). The relationships were quantified with a least-square fitting approach in order to enable an estimation of the PFTs from Chl-a where PFTs are expressed as a percentage of the total Chl-a. The estimated uncertainty of the relationships depends on both PFT and Chl-a concentration. Maximum uncertainty of 31.8% was found for diatoms at Chl-a = 0.49 mg m−3. However, the mean uncertainty of the relationships over all PFTs was 5.9% over the entire Chl-a range observed in situ (0.02 < Chl-a < 4.26 mg m−3). The relationships were applied to SeaWiFS satellite Chl-a data from 1998 to 2009 to show the global climatological fields of the surface distribution of PFTs. Results show that microplankton are present in the mid and high latitudes, constituting only ~10.9% of the entire phytoplankton community in the mean field for 1998–2009, in which diatoms explain ~7.5%. Nanoplankton are ubiquitous throughout the global surface oceans, except the subtropical gyres, constituting ~45.5%, of which prymnesiophytes (haptophytes) are the major group explaining ~31.7% while green algae contribute ~13.9%. Picoplankton are dominant in the subtropical gyres, but constitute ~43.6% globally, of which prokaryotes are the major group explaining ~26.5% (Prochlorococcus sp. explaining 22.8%), while pico-eukaryotes explain ~17.2% and are relatively abundant in the South Pacific. These results may be of use to evaluate global marine ecosystem models.

Final-revised paper