An evaluation of methods for measuring phytoplankton and ecosystem status in the Chukchi Sea
Neeley, Aimee Renee
Harris, Lora A
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This dissertation represents a three-pronged approach for evaluating ecosystem-level changes in the Chukchi Sea: 1) evaluation of uncertainties in field measurements of absorption 2) direct measurements of phytoplankton taxonomy and the community’s interaction with the environment and 3) apply existing and new remote sensing tools to measure ecosystem-level changes over large spatio-temporal scales. The first and final chapters provide context for the dissertation and conclusions. The second chapter quantifies the magnitude of uncertainty within multiple methods for measuring particle absorption. The light field exiting the surface ocean is measured by satellite instruments as ocean color and is impacted by water column absorption. Biogeochemically-relevant products, such as phytoplankton and particle absorption are derived from the light field using algorithms. Therefore, accurate measurements of absorption are critical to algorithm development and validation. I employed a multi-method approach to estimate the precision of measuring optical density of particles on a filter pad using two common spectrophotometric methods, and assessed the uncertainty of the computational techniques for estimating ap. The uncertainty ranged from 7.48%-119%. Values of ap at 555 nm and 670 nm exhibited the highest values of uncertainty. Poor performance of modeled ap compared to measured ap suggests the uncertainties are propagated into bio-optical algorithms. The third chapter investigates the consequences of earlier seasonal sea ice retreat and a longer sea-ice-free season on phytoplankton community composition. The timing of sea ice retreat, light availability and sea surface stratification largely control the phytoplankton community composition in the Chukchi Sea. This region is experiencing a significant warming trend, decrease in sea ice cover, and a documented decline in annual sea ice persistence and thickness over the past several decades. I applied multivariate statistical techniques to elucidate the mechanisms that relate environmental variables to phytoplankton community composition in the Chukchi Sea using data collected during a single field campaign in the summer of 2011. Three phytoplankton groups emerged that were correlated with sea ice, sea surface temperature, nutrients, salinity and light. The fourth chapter evaluates a new remote sensing tool for its utility to trace trends in ocean color over the summer months, 2003-2018, in the Chukchi Sea. The apparent visible wavelength reduces an ocean color spectrum to one number that represents the apparent color of the water. Median trend analysis of apparent visible wavelength and Chlorophyll a indicated that an ecosystem-level change in phytoplankton and nonalgal particles has occurred, correlated with the loss of sea ice.