Fine-scale variability in phytoplankton community structure and inherent optical properties measured from an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle

Alex Cunningham, David McKee, Susanne E. Craig, Glen Tarran, Claire Widdicombe

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20 Citations (Scopus)


The relationship between inherent optical properties (IOPs), phytoplankton community structure and the abundance of suspended particles in the size range 3-500 Am was studied near the Isles of Scilly (UK) in May 2000. Autosub, an autonomous submersible vehicle specifically designed for science missions, was used as an instrument-positioning platform. It carried a CTD system, an ac-9+ dual tube spectrophotometer, a prototype submersible flow cytometer and an Aqua-monitor water sampler. The vehicle made a 10-km transect at constant depth across a boundary between water masses with contrasting remote sensing reflectance, which was located using SeaWiFs ocean colour imagery. This boundary corresponded to a sharp (1 km) transition between one phytoplankton community consisting of coccolithophores, flagellates and dinoflagellates, and a second community dominated by diatoms and flagellates. Inherent optical properties measured along the autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) track showed marked changes in magnitudes, ratios, spectral shapes and fine-scale spatial variability. These changes were well correlated with variations in the composition of the suspended particle assemblage measured by microscopy and in situ flow cytometry.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)51-59
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Marine Systems
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2003


  • AUV
  • flow cytometry
  • optical water types
  • optical classification
  • scattering coefficient
  • phytoplankton optics
  • UK
  • English channel
  • Isles of Scilly

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