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Determination of chlorophyll in seawater

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posted on 18.11.2022, 13:16 authored by Pamela Walsham, Alain Aminot, Francisco Rey, Kristin Andreasson, Carlos Borges, Kerry Smith, Koen Parmentier, Steven Crum, Veronique Creach, Mikel Latasa

Chlorophyll a is the primary pigment responsible for photosynthesis and is found in all photosynthetic algae and higher plants. Chlorophyll a has been used as an indicator of phytoplankton biomass for a number of decades, and is a core measurement for eutrophication monitoring in many international assessments.

Traditionally, chlorophyll a was determined using either spectroscopic or fluorometric techniques. High performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) methods for chlorophyll a determination were first developed in the 1980s. Remote sensing devices, such as satellites or in situ devices, are also becoming increasingly used. In addition to different detection methods, different extraction solvents and extraction methods are also used. There is no single standard analysis technique for chlorophyll a, and the choice of method depends on purpose, cost and preference.

Intercomparison exercises to compare the performance of different chlorophyll a methods have revealed a high degree of variability. It is therefore important to have robust quality control procedures in place and to maintain a metadata record.

This updated guideline replaces ICES Techniques in Environmental Marine Sciences Vol. 30 (Aminot and Rey, 2001) and draws attention to critical points and issues associated with the different analytical techniques used within the ICES region. 


Published under the auspices of the following ICES Steering Group or Committee


Published under the auspices of the following ICES Expert Group or Strategic Initiative



ICES Techniques in Marine Environmental Science (TIMES)



Peer reviewers

Alain Lefebvre; Jukka Seppälä

Series Editor/s

Tatiana Tsagaraki





Recommended citation

Walsham, P., Aminot, A., Rey, F., Andreasson, K., Borges, C., Smith, K., Parmentier, K., Crum, S., Creach, V., and Latasa, M. 2022. Determination of chlorophyll in seawater. ICES Techniques in Marine Environmental Sciences Vol. 68. 33 pp. https://doi.org/10.17895/ices.pub.20207798