A comparison and correction of light intensity loggers to photosynthetically active radiation sensors

Matthew H. Long, Jennie E. Rheuban, Peter Berg, Joseph C. Zieman

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 10:416-424 (2012) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2012.10.416

ABSTRACT: Accurate light measurements are important in the analysis of photosynthetic systems. Many commercial instruments are available to determine light; however, the comparison of light estimates between studies is difficult due to the differences in sensor types and their calibrations. The measurement of underwater irradiance is also complicated by the scattering and attenuation of light due to interactions with particulates, molecules, and the bottom. Here, three sensor types are compared to evaluate the calibration of light intensity loggers to estimate photosynthetically active radiation (PAR). We present a simple calibration of light intensity loggers that agree within 3.8% to factory-calibrated scalar PAR sensors under a wide range of environmental conditions. Under the same range of conditions, two identical factory-calibrated PAR sensors showed a similar difference of 3.7%. The light intensity loggers were calibrated to a high-quality PAR sensor using an exponential fit (r2 = 0.983) that accounts for differences in sensor types with respect to the angle of incoming light, scattering, and attenuation. The light loggers are small, robust, and simple to operate and install, and thus well-suited for typical subsurface research. They are also useful for small-scale measurements, when broad spatial coverage is needed, or in research requiring multiple sensors. Many studies have used these simple light intensity sensors to estimate PAR, yet their limitations and advantages in mimicking PAR have not been well defined previously. We present these small and user-friendly loggers as an excellent alternative to more sophisticated scalar PAR sensors.