LISST-100 measurements of phytoplankton size distribution: evaluation of the effects of cell shape

Lee Karp-Boss, Laura Azavedo,Emmanuel Boss

Limnol. Oceanogr. Methods 5:396-406 (2007) | DOI: 10.4319/lom.2007.5.396

ABSTRACT: Information on cell size is central to studies of phytoplankton ecology, yet in situ measurements of particle size distribution remain a challenge. The LISST-100 (Laser In Situ Scattering and Transmissometry; Sequoia Scientific, Inc.) is one of few commercially available instruments that provide autonomous measurements of size distributions of suspended particles in situ. Its capability to size phytoplankton needs to be evaluated, however, for two reasons. First, size is not measured directly; rather, information on size is obtained from near-forward scattering measurements that are inverted to obtain size distributions. The inversion assumes that particles are homogeneous spheres. Phytoplankton, however, display a wide range of cell shapes and their scattering behavior is likely to be different from that of spheres. Second, the LISST-100 was originally designed for sediments and its inversion assumes an index of refraction typical of inorganic particles. We compared size and volume concentration distributions obtained by the LISST-100 to those derived via microscopy for phytoplankton cultures of different cell sizes and shapes. Results demonstrate the success of the LISST-100 in measuring size and volume concentrations of cells with a cell aspect ratio that is close to 1 and illustrate its limitations when nonspherical cells are present in the sample. Uses of the LISST-100 in laboratory and field studies are discussed in light of the results from this study.