Tang, SL; Liu, FF (2020). Remote sensing of phytoplankton decline during the late 1980s and early 1990s in the South China Sea. INTERNATIONAL JOURNAL OF REMOTE SENSING, 41(15), 6010-6021.

The duration of a single satellite deployment is insufficient to detect long-term trends in phytoplankton biomass. By integrating data from different platforms, we quantified the phytoplankton trends in the South China Sea (SCS) from the early-to-mid 1980s to the present. We focused on winter data because the sea surface temperature (SST) in winter has been increasing over the past three decades. We included data from three different eras: (1) the Coastal Zone Colour Scanner (CZCS) period (1979-1983), (2) the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) period (1998-2002), and (3) the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) period (2010-2014). There was a decline in phytoplankton (approximately 0.15 mg m(-3)) over the entire SCS from the CZCS period to the SeaWiFS period. The largest reduction (over 0.3 mg m(-3)) occurred in the northern and western SCS. After the SeaWiFS period, the phytoplankton increased by approximately 0.05 mg m(-3). The largest increase was observed to the west of Luzon Strait, extending towards the east coast of Hainan Island. The fluctuations in phytoplankton from the early-to-mid 1980s to the present were consistent with the variation in the wind field rather than with the continued increase in SST. The wind speed decreased from the CZCS period to the SeaWiFS period and increased from the SeaWiFS period to the MODIS period. Moreover, the nutrient variations induced by the mixed-layer depth also contributed to the fluctuations in phytoplankton.