Laser Optical Plankton Counter and Zooscan intercomparison in tropical and subtropical marine ecosystems

Sabine Schultes, Rubens M. Lopes

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 7:771-784 (2009) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2009.7.771

ABSTRACT: Two recently developed instruments, the Laser Optical Plankton Counter (LOPC) and the Zooscan, have been applied to study zooplankton biomass size spectra in tropical and subtropical marine ecosystems off Brazil. Both technologies rely on optical measurements of particles and may potentially be used in zooplankton monitoring programs. Vertical profiles of the LOPC installed in a 200 µm ring net have been obtained from diverse environmental settings ranging from turbid and nearshore waters to oligotrophic open ocean conditions. Net samples were analyzed on the Zooscan and counted under a microscope. Particle biovolume in the study area estimated with the LOPC correlated with plankton displacement volume from the net samples, but there was no significant relationship between total areal zooplankton biomass determined with LOPC and the Zooscan. Apparently, normalized biomass size spectra (NBSS) of LOPC and Zooscan overlapped for particles in the size range of 500 to 1500 µm in equivalent spherical diameter (ESD), especially at open ocean stations. However, the distribution of particles into five size classes was statistically different between both instruments at 24 of 28 stations. The disparities arise from unequal flow estimates, from different sampling efficiencies of LOPC tunnel and net for large and small particles, and possibly from the interference of non-zooplankton material in the LOPC signal. Ecosystem properties and technical differences therefore limit the direct comparability of the NBSS slopes obtained with both instruments during this study, and their results should be regarded as complementary.