Estimation of Suspended Matter, Organic Carbon, and Chlorophyll-a Concentrations from Particle Size and Refractive Index Distributions


Models of particle density and of organic carbon and chlorophyll-a intraparticle concentration were applied to particle size distributions and particle real refractive index distributions determined from flow cytometry measurements of natural seawater samples from a range of UK coastal waters. The models allowed for the estimation of suspended particulate matter, organic suspended matter, inorganic suspended matter, particulate organic carbon, and chlorophyll-a concentrations. These were then compared with independent measurements of each of these parameters. Particle density models were initially applied to a simple spherical model of particle volume, but generally overestimated independently measured values, sometimes by over two orders of magnitude. However, when the same density models were applied to a fractal model of particle volume, successful agreement was reached for suspended particulate matter and both inorganic and organic suspended matter values (RMS%E: 57.4%, 148.5%, and 83.1% respectively). Non-linear organic carbon and chlorophyll-a volume scaling models were also applied to a spherical model of particle volume, and after an optimization procedure achieved successful agreement with independent measurements of particulate organic carbon and chlorophyll-a concentrations (RMS%E: 45.6% and 51.8% respectively). Refractive index-based models of carbon and chlorophyll-a intraparticle concentration were similarly tested, and were also found to require a fractal model of particle volume to achieve successful agreement with independent measurements, producing RMS%E values of 50.2% and 45.2% respectively after an optimization procedure. It is further shown that the non-linear exponents of the volume scaling models are mathematically equivalent to the fractal dimensionality coefficients that link cell volume to mass concentration, reflecting the impact of non-uniform distribution of intracellular carbon within cells. Fractal models of particle volume are thus found to be essential to successful closure between results provided by models of particle mass, intraparticle carbon and chlorophyll content, and bulk measurements of suspended mass and total particulate carbon and chlorophyll when natural mixed particle populations are concerned. The results also further confirm the value of determining both size and refractive index distributions of natural particle populations using flow cytometry.
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