Scaling of coastal phytoplankton features by optical remote sensors: comparison with a regional ecosystem model

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Different scales of hydrological and biological patterns of the Bay of Biscay are assessed using space‐borne and airborne optical remote sensing data, field measurements and a 3‐dimensional biophysical model. If field measurements provide accurate values on the vertical dimension, ocean colour data offer frequent observations of surface biological patterns at various scales of major importance for the validation of ecosystem modelling. Although the hydro‐biological model of the continental margin reproduces the main seasonal variability of surface biomass, the optical remote sensing data have helped to identify low grid resolution, input inaccuracies and neglect of swell‐induced erosion mechanism as model limitations in shallow waters. Airborne remote sensing is used to show that satellite data and field measurements are unsuitable for comparison in the extreme case of phytoplankton blooms in patches of a few hundred metres. Vertically, the satellite observation is consistent with near surface in situ measurements as the sub‐surface chlorophyll maximum usually encountered in summer is not detected by optical remote sensing. A mean error (C/C) of 50.5% of the chlorophyll‐a estimate in turbid waters using the SeaWiFS‐OC5 algorithm allows the quantitative use of ocean colour data by the coastal oceanographic community.

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: 1: Joint Research Centre, Institute for Environment and Sustainability, Inland and Marine Waters Unit, TP 272 Via E. Fermi 1, I‐21020 Ispra (VA), Italy 2: Atlantide, Technopôle Brest Iroise, Site du Vernis, CS 23866, 29238 BREST Cedex 3, France 3: IFREMER, Centre of Brest, DEL/EC, BP 70, 29280 Plouzané, France

Publication date: October 20, 2005

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