Published in Continental Shelf Research, Volume 30, Issue 1, January 15, 2010, pages 29-38.
Copyright © 2010 Elsevier Ltd.
The definitive version is available at http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.csr.2009.08.004.
The degree of layered organization of planktonic organisms in coastal systems impacts trophic interactions, the vertical availability of nutrients, and many biological rate processes. While there is reasonable characterization of the vertical structure of these phenomena, the extent and horizontal length scale of variation has rarely been addressed. Here we extend the examination of the vertical scale in the first paper of the series to the horizontal scale with combined shipboard acoustic measurements and bio-optic measurements taken on an autonomous underwater vehicle. Measurements were made in Monterey Bay, CA from 2002 to 2008 for the bio-optical parameters and during 2006 for acoustic scattering measurements. The combined data set was used to evaluate the horizontal decorrelation length scales of the bio-optical and acoustic scattering layers themselves. Because biological layers are often decoupled from the physical structure of the water column, assessment of the variance within identified layers was appropriate. This differs from other studies in that physical parameters were not used as a basis for the layer definition. There was a significant diel pattern to the decorrelation length scale for acoustic layers with the more abundant nighttime layers showing less horizontal variability despite their smaller horizontal extent. A significant decrease in the decorrelation length scale was found in bio-optical parameters over six years of study, coinciding with a documented shift in the plankton community. Results highlight the importance of considering plankton behavior and time of day with respect to scale when studying layers, and the challenges of sampling these phenomena.