Correcting in situ chlorophyll fluorescence time-series observations for nonphotochemical quenching and tidal variability reveals nonconservative phytoplankton variability in coastal waters

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Limnology and Oceanography: Methods


Chlorophyll fluorometry is one of the most commonly implemented approaches for estimating phytoplankton biomass in situ, despite documented sources of natural variability and instrumental uncertainty in the relationship between in vivo fluorescence and chlorophyll concentration. A number of strategies are employed to minimize errors and quantify natural variability in this relationship in the open ocean. However, the assumptions underlying these approaches are unsupported in coastal waters due to the short temporal and small spatial scales of variability, as well as the optical complexity. The largest source of variability in the in situ chlorophyll fluorometric signal is nonphotochemical quenching (NPQ). Typically, unquenched nighttime observations are interpolated over the quenched daytime interval, but this assumes a spatial homogeneity not found in tidally impacted coastal waters. Here, we present a model that provides a tidally resolved correction for NPQ in moored chlorophyll fluorescence measurements. The output of the model is a time series of unquenched chlorophyll fluorescence in tidal endmembers (high and low tide extremes), and thus a time series of phytoplankton biomass growth and loss in these endmember populations. Comparison between modeled and measured unquenched time series yields quantification of nonconservative variations in phytoplankton biomass. Tidally modeled interpolation between these endmember time series yields a highly resolved time series of unquenched daytime chlorophyll fluorescence values at the location of the moored sensor. Such data sets provide a critical opportunity for validating the satellite remotely sensed ocean color chlorophyll concentration data product in coastal waters.

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