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Seminar Abstract

Sonia Batten - February 21, 2002


The Continuous Plankton Recorder - now coming to an ocean near you!

The Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) survey has been operating in the North Atlantic for the last 70 years and forms probably the longest time series of biological oceanographic data in the world. Zooplankton are the key mediators in the transfer of the primary productivity of the oceans up through the food chain to the fisheries. In some areas of the North Atlantic, and for many species of zooplankton, the survey represents the only source of information available. During its history the data have been used to describe distributions of plankton, monitor the movements of species into new areas, examine regional and temporal changes in seasonal cycles, and detect long-term changes. The last few years have seen an increase in our desire to understand the potential effects of climate change and we are also faced with the need to distinguish between the effects of natural change versus human-induced change. CPR data has contributed a great deal to our understanding of how the climate influences the productivity of the oceans in the North Atlantic.

The open North Pacific has been poorly sampled to date, limiting our ability to understand the processes occurring off-shore. In the last few years the CPR has been deployed in the North Pacific as the first component of a basin-scale oceanographic monitoring program with a biological focus. Zooplankton are a key component of the off-shore ecosystem, most obviously in their importance as a food source for fish, marine birds and mammals, but they can also act as indicators of physical processes, especially those that result in ecosystem change. The Pacific CPR data reveal high variation in oceanic zooplankton abundance which appears to be related to recent large climatic changes, as indexed by the PDO and El Niņo events. There have also been simultaneous changes in the species composition of calanoid copepods across the Northeast Pacific. The implications of these findings, and how the program might develop in the future will also be discussed.

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