The suspended particle assemblage in complex coastal waters is a mixture of living phytoplankton, other autochthonous matter, and materials of terrestrial origin. The characterization of suspended particles is important for understanding regional primary productivity and rates of carbon sequestration, the fate of anthropogenic materials released to the coastal environment, as well as its effects on bulk optical properties, which influence the passive optical remote sensing of the coastal ocean. Here, the extensive bio-optical Plumes and Blooms data set is used to characterize the surface particle assemblage in the Santa Barbara Channel, California, a highly productive, upwelling-dominated, coastal site affected by episodic sediment inputs. Available variables sensitive to characteristics of the particle assemblage include particle beam attenuation and backscattering coefficients, High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC) pigment concentration observations, chlorophyll and particulate organic carbon concentration, particulate and phytoplankton absorption coefficients, and Laser In-situ Scattering and Transmissometry (LISST) 100-X particle sizer observations. Comparisons among these particle assemblage proxy variables indicate good agreement and internal consistency among the data set. Correlations among chlorophyll concentration, particulate organic carbon concentration (POC), HPLC pigments, and proxies sensitive to the entire particle assemblage such as backscattering and LISST data strongly indicate that in spite of its coastal character, variability in the particle assemblage in the Santa Barbara Channel is dominated by its marine biogenic component. Relatively high estimates of the bulk real index of refraction and its positive correlation with chlorophyll and lithogenic silica concentration tentatively indicate that there is minerogenic particle influence in the Santa Barbara Channel that tends to covary with the phytoplankton blooms. Limitations of each particle assemblage proxy and remote-sensing applications are discussed.
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