The PROTOOL Project
PROTOOL stands for PROductivity TOOLs: Automated Tools to Measure Primary Productivity in European Seas. In this 3 year project we will develop and adapt technology to measure primary production of phytoplankton with automated optical techniques, so that they can be placed on ships of opportunity (SOOP, ferries, container ships).
The complete PROTOOL module will consist of a fluorometer measuring the rate of photosynthesis (using the variable fluorescence approach), an algal absorption meter based on the principle of integrating cavity and a hyperspectral reflectance unit to obtain water quality parameters like chlorophyll and suspended matter concentrations and light attenuation coefficients. The design will be modular so that the individual units can also be used.
Our product is unique because it is the first sensor technology that can autonomously measure biological process rates. It will provide detailed information on primary productivity which forms the basis of the carrying capacity of any ecosystem. With our PROTOOL approach a much better assessment of ecosystem change can be made and we expect that our approach will stimulate to include primary production measurements as an important biological property in the ecological status assessment procedures in future WFD and Marine Strategy Initiatives.
Primary production was mentioned as a parameter to measure in the initial versions of the Marine Strategy Initiatives but is not included in the current version, possibly because no current infrastructure is available in the EU-member states. The different version of the sensors and protocol modules will be tested in the Baltic Sea, The North Sea, in the English-Channel and Gulf of Biscay and in a number of Dutch estuaries. In the first 3 cases the PROTOOL equipment will be placed on SOOPs, next to a ferrybox. These field tests will obtain conversion factors necessary to calibrate the PROTOOL fluorometer and we will obtain estimates of primary production with high temporal and spatial resolution.