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New approach to estimate phytoplankton biomass and primary production more accurately

23 August 2022

Plymouth Marine Laboratory has contributed to a publication that highlights a new approach to more accurately estimate phytoplankton biomass and net primary production.
Diatoms under the microscope: Copyright Plymouth Marine Laboratory Above: Diatoms under the microscope - Copyright Plymouth Marine Laboratory

Estimates of phytoplankton biomass are essential components of marine observation for primary production models, and also for insight into nutrient cycling and carbon transfer; the abundance and productivity of phytoplankton constrain energy transfer through marine food webs, and the export of organic carbon to the deep ocean.
Dr Gavin Tilstone, Bio-optical oceanographer at PML, who contributed to the publication, said:
“Estimates of the flow of carbon through the food web can be improved and enhanced using optical proxies which can be measured at high spatial and temporal resolution. This paper uses optical proxy scaling factors to improve estimates in net community production under highly dynamic changes in phytoplankton composition and photo-physiology."

“The new publication demonstrates how a simple ratio of absorption at two wavelengths can be used to provide a coarse approximation of phytoplankton community composition when scaling bbp to Cphyto, thereby improving the estimation of net primary production.”
Read the full publication here >>
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