Phytoplankton functional types from Space.

Astrid.Bracher [ at ]


The concept of phytoplankton functional types has emerged as a useful approach to classifying phytoplankton. It finds many applications in addressing some serious contemporary issues facing science and society. Its use is not without challenges, however. As noted earlier, there is no universally-accepted set of functional types, and the types used have to be carefully selected to suit the particular problem being addressed. It is important that the sum total of all functional types matches all phytoplankton under consideration. For example, if in a biogeochemical study, we classify phytoplankton as silicifiers, calcifiers, DMS-producers and nitrogen fix- ers, then there is danger that the study may neglect phytoplankton that do not contribute in any significant way to those functions, but may nevertheless be a significant contributor to, say primary production. Such considerations often lead to the adoption of a category of “other phytoplankton” in models, with no clear defining traits assigned them, but that are nevertheless necessary to close budgets on phytoplankton processes. Since this group is a collection of all phytoplankton that defy classification according to a set of traits, it is difficult to model their physi- ological processes. Our understanding of the diverse functions of phytoplankton is still growing, and as we recognize more functions, there will be a need to balance the desire to incorporate the increasing number of functional types in models against observational challenges of identifying and mapping them adequately. Modelling approaches to dealing with increasing functional diversity have been proposed, for example, using the complex adaptive systems theory and system of infinite diversity, as in the work of Bruggemann and Kooijman (2007). But it is unlikely that remote-sensing approaches might be able to deal with anything but a few prominent functional types. As long as these challenges are explicitly addressed, the functional- type concept should continue to fill a real need to capture, in an economic fashion, the diversity in phytoplankton, and remote sensing should continue to be a useful tool to map them. Remote sensing of phytoplankton functional types is an emerging field, whose potential is not fully realised, nor its limitations clearly established. In this report, we provide an overview of progress to date, examine the advantages and limitations of various methods, and outline suggestions for further development. The overview provided in this chapter is intended to set the stage for detailed considerations of remote-sensing applications in later chapters. In the next chapter, we examine various in situ methods that exist for observing phytoplankton functional types, and how they relate to remote-sensing techniques. In the subsequent chapters, we review the theoretical and empirical bases for the existing and emerging remote-sensing approaches; assess knowledge about the limitations, assumptions, and likely accuracy or predictive skill of the approaches; provide some preliminary comparative analyses; and look towards future prospects with respect to algorithm development, validation studies, and new satellite mis- sions.

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Sathyendranath, S. , Aiken, J. , Alvain, S. , Barlow, R. , Bouman, H. , Bracher, A. , Brewin, R. , Bricaud, A. , Brown, C. W. , Ciotti, A. M. , Clementson, L. A. , Craig, S. E. , Devred, E. , Hardman-Mountford, N. , Hirata, T. , Hu, C. , Kostadinov, T. S. , Lavender, S. , Loisel, H. , Moore, T. S. , Morales, J. , Mouw, C. B. , Nair, A. , Raitsos, D. , Roesler, C. , Shutler, J. D. , Sosik, H. M. , Soto, I. , Stuart, V. , Subramaniam, A. and Uitz, J. (2014): Phytoplankton functional types from Space. / S. Sathyendranath and V. Stuart (editors) , (Reports of the International Ocean-Colour Coordinating Group (IOCCG) ; 15), Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, B2Y 4A2, Canada., International Ocean-Colour Coordinating Group, 156 p., ISBN: ISSN 1098-6030 .


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