Patchiness or spatial variability is ubiquitous in marine systems. With increasing anthropogenic impacts to coastal resources and coastal systems being disproportionately large contributors to ocean productivity, identifying the spatial scales of this patchiness, particularly in coastal waters, is of critical importance to understand coastal ecosystem dynamics. The current work focuses on fine scale structure in three coastal regions. More specifically, we utilize variogram analyses to identify sub-kilometer scales of variability in biological and physical parameters measured by an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) in the Mid-Atlantic Bight, Monterey Bay, and in San Luis Obispo Bay between 2001 and 2004. Critical scales of variability in density, turbidity, fluorescence, and bioluminescence are examined as a function of depth and distance offshore. Furthermore, the effects of undersampling are assessed using predictive error analysis. Results indicate the presence of scales of variability ranging from 10s to 100s of meters and provide valuable insight for sampling design and resource allocation for future studies.



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