Marine Science Faculty Publications

Optical and Biochemical Properties of a Southwest Florida Whiting Event

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Whiting, Calcification, Calcium carbonates, Diatoms, Biogeochemistry

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“Whiting” in oceanography is a term used to describe a sharply defined patch of water that contains high levels of suspended, fine-grained calcium carbonate (CaCO3). Whitings have been reported in many oceanic and lake environments, and recently have been reported in southwest Florida coastal waters. Here, field and laboratory measurements were used to study optical, biological, and chemical properties of whiting waters off southwest Florida. No significant difference was found in chlorophyll a concentrations between whiting and outside waters (non-whiting water), but average particle backscattering coefficients in whiting waters were double those in outside waters, and remote sensing reflectance in whiting waters was higher at all wavelengths (400–700 nm). While other potential causes cannot be completely ruled out, particle composition and biochemical differences between sampled whiting water, contiguous water, and outside water indicate a biologically precipitated mode of whiting formation. Taxonomic examination of marine phytoplankton samples collected during a whiting event revealed a community dominated by autotrophic picoplankton and a small (<10 μm), centric diatom species, identified as Thalassiosira sp. through the use of scanning electron microscopy. Amorphous to fully formed crystals of CaCO3 were observed along the girdle bands of Thalassiosira sp. cells and autotrophic picoplankton cells. Although carbonate parameters differed from whiting and contiguous to outside water, more sampling is needed to determine if these results are statistically significant.

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Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, v. 196, p. 258-268