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Retrieval of phytoplankton size from bio-optical measurements: theory and applications

Roy, S. ORCID:, Sathyendranath, S. and Platt, T. (2011) Retrieval of phytoplankton size from bio-optical measurements: theory and applications. Journal of Royal Society Interface, 8 (58). pp. 650-660. ISSN 1742-5662

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To link to this item DOI: 10.1098/rsif.2010.0503


The absorption coefficient of a substance distributed as discrete particles in suspension is less than that of the same material dissolved uniformly in a medium—a phenomenon commonly referred to as the flattening effect. The decrease in the absorption coefficient owing to flattening effect depends on the concentration of the absorbing pigment inside the particle, the specific absorption coefficient of the pigment within the particle, and on the diameter of the particle, if the particles are assumed to be spherical. For phytoplankton cells in the ocean, with diameters ranging from less than 1 µm to more than 100 µm, the flattening effect is variable, and sometimes pronounced, as has been well documented in the literature. Here, we demonstrate how the in vivo absorption coefficient of phytoplankton cells per unit concentration of its major pigment, chlorophyll a, can be used to determine the average cell size of the phytoplankton population. Sensitivity analyses are carried out to evaluate the errors in the estimated diameter owing to potential errors in the model assumptions. Cell sizes computed for field samples using the model are compared qualitatively with indirect estimates of size classes derived from high performance liquid chromatography data. Also, the results are compared quantitatively against measurements of cell size in laboratory cultures. The method developed is easy-to-apply as an operational tool for in situ observations, and has the potential for application to remote sensing of ocean colour data.

Item Type:Article
Divisions:No Reading authors. Back catalogue items
Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Earth Systems Science
Science > School of Archaeology, Geography and Environmental Science > Department of Geography and Environmental Science
ID Code:33655
Uncontrolled Keywords:phytoplankton size; average diameter; bio-optical measurements; specific absorption; package effect; diagnostic pigments
Publisher:The Royal Society

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