Recent studies suggest that photophysiological parameters for intact substrates with depth (e.g., periphytic biofilms, microphytobenthos) are overestimated by pulse-amplitude modulated (PAM) fluorometry. This overestimation results from depth-integration effects, following the activation of deeper photosynthesizing layers by an attenuated light signal. To mitigate this error, we propose a novel slide-based thin-film technique in which fluorescence is measured on a vertically representative subsample of the biofilm, spread evenly on a microscope slide. We compared bias and precision for photosynthetic parameters estimated through conventional PAM fluorometry on intact biofilms and through our novel slide-based technique, both theoretically and empirically. Numerical simulations confirmed the consistent overestimation of key parameters for intact biofilms, with relative errors up to 145%, compared to, at most, 52% on thin films. Paired empirical observations likewise demonstrated that estimates based on intact biofilms were consistently higher (up to 248%,
) than estimates from thin films. Numerical simulation suggested greater precision with the slide-based technique for homogeneous biofilms, but potentially less precision for heterogeneous biofilms with improper subsampling. Our empirical comparison, however, demonstrated some improvement in precision with the slide-based technique (e.g., the coefficient of variation for the maximum electron transport rate was reduced 30%,
). We recommend the use of the slide-based technique, particularly for biofilms that are thick or have small light attenuation coefficients. Care should be taken, however, to obtain vertically representative subsamples of the biofilm for measurement.
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