Articles | Volume 5, issue 1
Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 5, 15–29, 2013
Earth Syst. Sci. Data, 5, 15–29, 2013

  04 Feb 2013

04 Feb 2013

Calibration procedures and first dataset of Southern Ocean chlorophyll a profiles collected by elephant seals equipped with a newly developed CTD-fluorescence tags

C. Guinet1, X. Xing2,3,4, E. Walker5, P. Monestiez5, S. Marchand6, B. Picard1, T. Jaud1, M. Authier1, C. Cotté1,7, A. C. Dragon1, E. Diamond2,3, D. Antoine2,3, P. Lovell8, S. Blain9,10, F. D'Ortenzio2,3, and H. Claustre2,3 C. Guinet et al.
  • 1Centre d'Etudes Biologiques de Chizé-CNRS, Villiers en Bois, France
  • 2Laboratoire d'Océanographie de Villefranche, Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
  • 3Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris-6), Unité Mixte de Recherche 7093, Laboratoire d'Océanographie de Villefranche, Villefranche-sur-Mer, France
  • 4Ocean University of China, Qingdao, China
  • 5Unité Biostatistique et Processus Spatiaux-INRA, Avignon, France
  • 6Muséum national d'histoire naturelle, DMPA USM 402/LOCEAN, Paris, France
  • 7Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris-6), DMPA USM 402/LOCEAN, Paris, France
  • 8Sea Mammal Research Unit, University of St. Andrews, St. Andrews, Scotland
  • 9Laboratoire d'Océanographie Microbienne, Université Paris VI, Banyuls sur mer, France
  • 10Université Pierre et Marie Curie (Paris-6), Unité Mixte de Recherche 7621, Laboratoire d'Océanographie Microbienne, Banyuls-sur-Mer, France

Abstract. In situ observation of the marine environment has traditionally relied on ship-based platforms. The obvious consequence is that physical and biogeochemical properties have been dramatically undersampled, especially in the remote Southern Ocean (SO). The difficulty in obtaining in situ data represents the major limitations to our understanding, and interpretation of the coupling between physical forcing and the biogeochemical response. Southern elephant seals (Mirounga leonina) equipped with a new generation of oceanographic sensors can measure ocean structure in regions and seasons rarely observed with traditional oceanographic platforms. Over the last few years, seals have allowed for a considerable increase in temperature and salinity profiles from the SO, but we were still lacking information on the spatiotemporal variation of phytoplankton concentration. This information is critical to assess how the biological productivity of the SO, with direct consequences on the amount of CO2 "fixed'' by the biological pump, will respond to global warming. In this research programme, we use an innovative sampling fluorescence approach to quantify phytoplankton concentration at sea. For the first time, a low energy consumption fluorometer was added to Argos CTD-SRDL tags, and these novel instruments were deployed on 27 southern elephant seals between 25 December 2007 and the 4 February 2011. As many as 3388 fluorescence profiles associated with temperature and salinity measurements were thereby collected from a vast sector of the Southern Indian Ocean. This paper addresses the calibration issue of the fluorometer before being deployed on elephant seals and presents the first results obtained for the Indian sector of the Southern Ocean. This in situ system is implemented in synergy with satellite ocean colour radiometry. Satellite-derived data is limited to the surface layer and is restricted over the SO by extensive cloud cover. However, with the addition of these new tags, we are able to assess the 3-dimension distribution of phytoplankton concentration by foraging southern elephant seals. This approach reveals that for the Indian sector of the SO, the surface chlorophyll a (chl a) concentrations provided by MODIS were underestimated by a factor 2 compared to chl a concentrations estimated from HPLC corrected in situ fluorescence measurements. The scientific outcomes of this programme include an improved understanding of both the present state and variability in ocean biology, and the accompanying biogeochemistry, as well as the delivery of real-time and open-access data to scientists (doi:10.7491/MEMO.1).