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Energy, Climate change, Environment

Operational zooplankton data service: a long-term monitoring programme

Copepods are the most abundant members of the zooplankton family and the major source of food for many fish, whales and seabirds. Their importance to the global marine ecosystem cannot be overstated; both in the ocean food web and in the carbon cycle. Since the 1930s their abundance has been measured by the Continuous Plankton Recorder which is towed behind merchant ships and is one of the longest running biological monitoring programmes in the world.

The analysis method has remained unchanged since the 1950s and the results are unique in providing comparable data on the geographical distribution, seasonal cycles and year-to-year changes in abundance of plankton over a large spatial area.

Geospatial modelling by the EMODnet biology team turned these data into Operational Oceanographic Products and Services (OOPS) which are gridded map layers showing the average abundance of marine species for different time windows.

In turn, these OOPS feed into the “Ecosystem Overviews” of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) which describe the trends in pressures and state of regional ecosystems and underpin ICES’s scientific advice on the exploitation and stewardship of the marine ecosystem and marine living resources in the North Atlantic.