AUV Measured Variability in Phytoplankton Fluorescence within the ETM of the Columbia River during Summer 2013
Tuesday, 16 December 2014
We present highly resolved observations of fluorescence and optical backscatter taken in the estuarine turbidity maxima (ETM) of the North Channel of the Columbia River estuary (USA) during summer 2013. Measurements were made using two REMUS-100 autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) equipped with ECO Puck triplets. Concentrations of three phytoplankton pigments were measured by fluorescence emission at wavelengths of 695 nm for chlorophyll, 570 nm for phycoerythrin, and 680 nm for phycocyanin. We use phycocyanin to indicate the presence of freshwater phytoplankton. Optical backscatter at wavelengths of 700 nm and 880 nm are used to characterize turbidity. During flood tide, high phycocyanin concentrations were associated with a strong ETM event which had relatively low salinity waters of approximately 6 psu. These data indicate that this low salinity ETM event contained large concentrations of freshwater phytoplankton. Since freshwater phytoplankton are known to lyse in saltwater, the brackish ETM event may have formed by the accumulation of lysed freshwater phytoplankton that settled out from the river as it mixed in the lower estuary. As the flood tide proceeded, it brought high concentrations of marine phytoplankton into the north channel at mid-depth as indicated by high chlorophyll levels with significantly lower phycoerythrin concentrations in high salinity waters of approximately 30 psu. The data set highlights the potential for large variability in phytoplankton species composition and concentrations within the ETM depending on mixing rates and phytoplankton bloom dynamics. Visualization of the 4-D data is aided by generating interpolated data movies.