Measured and remotely sensed estimates of primary production in the Atlantic Ocean from 1998 to 2005

Gavin Tilstone*, Timothy Smyth, Alex J. Poulton, Rory Hutson

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

64 Citations (Scopus)


Primary production (PP) was determined using 14C uptake at 117 stations in the Atlantic Ocean to validate three PP satellite algorithms of varying complexity. An empirical satellite algorithm based on log chlorophyll-a had the highest bias and root-mean square error compared with measured 14C PP and tended to under-estimate PP. The vertical generalised production model improved PP estimates and was the most accurate algorithm in the Eastern Tropical Atlantic (ETRA) and Western Tropical Atlantic (WTRA), but tended to over-estimate PP in eutrophic provinces. A photosynthesis-light wavelength-resolved model was the most accurate over the Atlantic basin, having the lowest mean log-difference error, root-mean square error and bias, and exhibited a superior performance in six out of the nine ecological provinces surveyed. Using this algorithm and mean monthly SeaWiFS fields, a PP time series was generated for the Atlantic Ocean from 1998 to 2005 which was compared with Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) sea-surface temperature (SST) data. There was a significant negative correlation between SST and PP in the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre Province (NAST), North Atlantic Tropical Gyre (NATR), and WTRA suggesting that recent warming trends in these provinces are coupled with a decrease in phytoplankton production.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)918-930
Number of pages13
JournalDeep-Sea Research Part II: Topical Studies in Oceanography
Issue number15
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jul 2009


  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Photosynthesis
  • Phytoplankton
  • Primary production
  • Remote sensing
  • Satellite oceanography

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oceanography


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