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Spectral effects in bio-optical control on the ocean system

Author(s): Shubha Sathyendranath | Trevor Platt

Journal: Oceanologia
ISSN 0078-3234

Volume: 49;
Issue: 1;
Start page: 5;
Date: 2007;
Original page

Keywords: Bio-optical properties of phytoplankton | Remote sensing of ocean colour | Species succession | Primary production | Phytoplankton functional types and mixed-layer physics

The influence of phytoplankton on the spectral structure of the submarine irradiance field is reviewed. The implications for the ocean system of the spectral response by phytoplankton to the ambient light field are discussed. For example, it provides the basis for retrieval of phytoplankton biomass by visible spectral radiometry (ocean-colour remote sensing). In the computation of primary production, the results of spectral models differ in a known and systematic manner from those of non-spectral ones. The bias can be corrected without risk of incurring additional random errors. The models in use for phytoplankton growth, whether based on available light or absorbed light, whether expressed in terms of chlorophyll or carbon, are shown all to conform to the same basic formalism with the same parameters. Residual uncertainty lies less with the models than with the parameters required for their implementation. The submarine light field and the spectral characteristics of phytoplankton carry latent information on phytoplankton community structure. Differences in spectral response by different functional types of phytoplankton are small but significant. Optical considerations limit the maximum phytoplankton biomass that can be sustained in a given surface mixed layer. Moreover, the upper bound on the biomass depends on the spectral response of the dominant phytoplankton taxa. As a result, an optical control exists in the mixed layer that tends to resist extreme excursions of the biomass and also to maintain biodiversity in the phytoplankton.
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