An intercomparison of bio-optical techniques for detecting dominant phytoplankton size class from satellite remote sensing
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Satellite remote sensing of ocean colour is the only method currently available for synoptically measuring wide-area properties of ocean ecosystems, such as phytoplankton chlorophyll biomass. Recently, a variety of bio-optical and ecological methods have been established that use satellite data to identify and differentiate between either phytoplankton functional types (PFTs) or phytoplankton size classes (PSCs). In this study, several of these techniques were evaluated against in situ observations to determine their ability to detect dominant phytoplankton size classes (micro-, nano- and picoplankton). The techniques are applied to a 10-year ocean-colour data series from the SeaWiFS satellite sensor and compared with in situ data (6504 samples) from a variety of locations in the global ocean. Results show that spectral-response, ecological and abundance-based approaches can all perform with similar accuracy. Detection of microplankton and picoplankton were generally better than detection of nanoplankton. Abundance-based approaches were shown to provide better spatial retrieval of PSCs. Individual model performance varied according to PSC, input satellite data sources and in situ validation data types. Uncertainty in the comparison procedure and data sources was considered. Improved availability of in situ observations would aid ongoing research in this field. (C) 2010 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.