An overview of plankton ecology in the North Sea
Johns, D.G. and Reid, P.C. (2001) An overview of plankton ecology in the North Sea. Technical Report. Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Sciences, Plymouth, (UK).
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The purpose of this report is to give an overview of plankton ecology in the North Sea, and the processes that effect it, as derived from current research. The Sir Alister Hardy Foundation has extensive data for the North Sea area, and other sources have also been used to provide information for this report. Shortfalls in current research have also been highlighted. The information contained herein is to be contributed towards an information base for the Strategic Environmental Assessment. The North Sea is an extension of the North Atlantic that has an area of 574,980 km2. The deepest area is off the coast of Norway (660m), with a number of shallow areas, such as the Dogger Bank (15m). The North Sea represents a large source of hydrocarbons that have been exploited since the early 1970s. The aim of this study is to provide the Department of Trade and Industry with biological data on the planktonic community of the North Sea, as a contribution towards the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA 2). An overview of phyto- and zoo- plankton community composition, plankton blooms, Calanus, mero-, pico- and megaplankton, sensitivity to disturbance / contamination, phytodetritus and vertical fluxes and the resting stages of phytoplankton is made using the results of the survey database. Additional published literature has also been used, and gaps in available data have been highlighted. 1.3 The Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) survey provides a unique long-term dataset of plankton abundance in the North Atlantic and North Sea (Warner and Hays 1994). The survey has been running for almost 70 years, using ‘ships of opportunity’ to tow CPRs on regular, and incidental routes, sampling at a depth of 10 m. Each sample represents 18 km of tow and approximately 3 m3 of filtered seawater. Over 400 taxa of plankton are routinely identified by a team of taxonomists. The samples are also compared to colour charts to give an indication of ‘greenness’, which provides a visual index of chlorophyll value. CPRs have been towed for over 4 million nautical miles, accumulating almost 200,000 samples. The design of the CPR has remained virtually unchanged since sampling started, thus providing a consistency of sampling that provides good historical comparisons. By systematically monitoring the plankton over a period, changes in abundance and long term trends can be distinguished. From this baseline data, inferences can be made, particularly concerning climate change and potentialanthropogenic impacts.
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