Optical detection and assessment of algal blooms
Cullen, John J.
Ciotti, Aurea M.
Davis, Richard F.
Lewis, Marlon R.
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Concerns about harmful algal blooms (HABs) have grown in recent years. There is a pressing need for robust, quantitative, and cost-effective methods to detect and characterize algal blooms. Critical applications of these methods include long-term monitoring of coastal waters to indicate the degree to which present trends of HABs and human activities are linked, early warning systems to protect aquaculture sites and to signal the need for further investigations, and systems to characterize synoptically the distributions and physiological state of phytoplankton in an oceanographic context. Because phytoplankton strongly influence the fate of light in the ocean, optical methods are well suited for HAB applications. Passive optical systems can measure ocean color or the penetration of solar irradiance in surface waters; both properties can be related to the constituents of natural waters, including phytoplankton. The sensors measure radiometric quantities: consequently, rigorous calibration is possible and measurements can be compared between sites and over long periods of time. One passive optical system-a radiometer buoy-is shown to be useful for characterizing biological variability in surface waters over scales from minutes to months. A red tide was easily observed in measures of ocean color from the buoy; sensors for downwelling irradiance detected a subsurface bloom. Some optical instruments use artificial illumination to determine optical properties such as the coefficients of absorption and scattering. These measures can be made continuously in situ and effectively related to phytoplankton. Several types of fluorometers can be used to characterize the abundance, pigmentation, and physiological state of phytoplankton. All of these optical technologies should be useful for the study of HABs, but biological interpretations of many optical measurements need further testing.
Cullen, John J., Aurea M. Ciotti, Richard F. Davis, and Marlon R. Lewis. 1997. "Optical detection and assessment of algal blooms." Limnology and Oceanography 42(5 PART 2): 1223-1239. DOI:10.4319/lo.1997.42.5_part_2.1223