Density estimation of plankton size spectra: A reanalysis of IronEx II data


Many critical processes of ecosystem function, including trophic relationships between predators and prey and maximum rates of photosynthesis and growth, are size-dependent. Size spectral data are therefore precious to modellers because they can constrain model predictions of size-dependent processes. Here we illustrate a multi-step statistical approach to create size spectra based on a reanalysis of plankton size data from the IronEx II experiment, where iron was added to a marked patch of water and changes in productivity and community structure were followed. First, bootstrapping was applied to resample original size measurements and cell counts. Kernel density estimation was then used to provide nonparametric descriptions of density versus size. Finally, parametric distributions were used to obtain parameter estimates that can more easily be applied in models. A major advantage of this approach is that it provides confidence envelopes for the density distributions. Our analyses suggest three basic distributional patterns of cell concentration versus logarithm of equivalent spherical diameter for individual taxa. Composite size-densities of heterotrophs and photoautotrophs reveal important aspects of the coupling between protist grazing and the phytoplankton community.
QR Code: Link to publication