Can ocean community production and respiration be determined by measuring high-frequency oxygen profiles from autonomous floats?

Christopher Gordon, Katja Fennel, Clark Richards, Lynn K. Shay, Jodi K. Brewster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Oceanic primary production forms the basis of the marine food web and provides a pathway for carbon sequestration. Despite its importance, spatial and temporal variations of primary production are poorly observed, in large part because the traditional measurement techniques are laborious and require the presence of a ship. More efficient methods are emerging that take advantage of miniaturized sensors integrated into autonomous platforms such as gliders and profiling floats. One such method relies on determining the diurnal cycle of dissolved oxygen in the mixed layer and has been applied successfully to measurements from gliders and mixed-layer floats. This study is the first documented attempt to estimate primary production from diurnal oxygen changes measured by Argo-type profiling floats, thus accounting for the whole euphotic zone. We first present a novel method for correcting measurement errors that result from the relatively slow response time of the oxygen optode sensor. This correction relies on an in situ determination of the sensor's effective response time. The method is conceptually straightforward and requires only two minor adjustments in current Argo data transmission protocols: (1) transmission of measurement time stamps and (2) occasional transmission of downcasts in addition to upcasts. Next, we present oxygen profiles collected by 10 profiling floats in the northern Gulf of Mexico, evaluate whether community production and respiration can be detected, and show evidence of internal oscillations influencing the diurnal oxygen signal. Our results show that profiling floats are capable of measuring diurnal oxygen variations although the confounding influence of physical processes does not permit a reliable estimation of biological rates in our dataset. We offer suggestions for recognizing and removing the confounding signals.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number219
Pages (from-to)4119-4134
Number of pages16
Issue number15
StatePublished - Aug 14 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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