PROductivity TOOLs: Automated Tools to Measure Primary Productivity in European Seas (PROTOOL)

Description of the project

In this 3 year project we develop and adapt technology to measure primary production of phytoplankton with automated optical techniques, so that they can be placed on ships of opportunity.

The complete PROTOOL module will consist of a fluorometer measuring the rate of photosynthesis (using the variable fluorescence approach), an algal absorption meter based on the principle of integrating cavity and a hyperspectral reflectance unit to obtain water quality parameters like chlorophyll and suspended matter concentrations and light attenuation coefficients. The design will be modular so that the individual units can also be used.

This presents the first sensor technology that can autonomously measure biological process rates. It provides detailed information on primary productivity, which forms the basis of the carrying capacity of any ecosystem. The PROTOOL approach yields a better assessment of ecosystem change and will support inclusion of primary production measurements as a biological property in the ecological status assessment procedures in future WFD and Marine Strategy Initiatives. The latter has not yet been possible due to a lack of infrastructure in the EU-member states.

The different version of the sensors and prototype modules will be tested in the Baltic Sea, The North Sea, the English-Channel, Gulf of Biscay and Dutch estuaries. In the first 3 cases the PROTOOL equipment will be next to an existing ferrybox. These field tests will obtain conversion factors necessary to calibrate the PROTOOL fluorometer and we will obtain estimates of primary production with high temporal and spatial resolution.

SYKE contributes to PROTOOL with automation of reflectance measurements (adjustment of viewing geometry to the ship course and sun position) and improved algorithm support for measurement of diffuse attenuation coefficient of downwelling irradiance (Kd) and Chlorophyll a. We also develop an improved protocol for variable fluorescence measurements with mixed algal/cyanobacterial phytoplankton communities and we construct a prototype Fast Repetion Rate Fluorometer on which such protocols can be tested. We further organize field testing in the Baltic Sea from R/V Aranda and ferrybox systems in the Algaline network, and we measure conversion factors from seawater samples brought to our laboratory within hours after sample collection on commercial ferries.

PROTOOL finished in August 2012. All project results are available from:


More information

Stefan Simis, Senior research Scientist, Finnish Environment Institute SYKE, firstname.surname(at), phone:  +358 40 182 3319

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Published 2013-04-22 at 14:26, updated 2023-05-26 at 19:23