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Continuous Plankton Recorder - multi-decadal time series for pelagic ecosystems - ME5308

Description
To understand long-term ecological changes in the oceans, to provide a critical long-term and geographically extensive biological observing system in the marine environment and to deliver scientific evidence needed to inform governments, scientists and society on changes to the health and diversity of our oceans.

The Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) survey (1931 to present) is recognised as the longest sustained and geographically extensive marine biological survey in the world and as such a critical observing system for an increasingly perturbed marine environment. The CPR survey is of importance in fulfilling a number of national and international monitoring and research strategies and also makes a significant contribution to international programmes. In terms of our scientific understanding of the impacts of global anthropogenic change on marine ecosystems the CPR survey is of global importance. Operated by the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS) in the North Atlantic it is supported by an international consortium of funders. As a member of this consortium Defra and its predecessors have played a key role in maintaining the survey since SAHFOS was established in 1990. This proposal is to request a continuation of Defra support for a further five years, including the merger of two current funding lines into one. Continued funding by Defra will help maintain the existing CPR route coverage in the NE Atlantic and U.K shelf seas.

The time series available from the CPR are especially valuable as there are few long data sets of marine biological information available in the world. There is a growing awareness that the quality of marine ecosystems is subject to a wide range of human impacts from pollution, eutrophication, loss of biodiversity and over-fishing. Evaluating and quantifying the scale and effects of such issues is becoming increasingly important as an ecosystem approach is applied to environmental management requiring the development of indicators. The indicator approach used by SAHFOS will be highly relevant to assessing and monitoring Good Environmental Status (GES) in UK and European waters as part of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). Superimposed on the above issues are the potential effects of climate change and acidification on oceanic ecosystems. Modelling studies indicate that such effects are likely to be more pronounced in the North Atlantic and that this region plays a key role in the climate of the world (e.g. the solubility and the biological pumps). Products from the survey are being used to construct and validate a new generation of ecosystem, fishery and climate models.

Standardised methodologies will continue to be used. More than 200,000 samples have been analysed into ~500 different taxa of zoo and phytoplankton over the more than 5 million miles that have now been towed since 1931. New methodologies have opened up the ability to apply molecular analysis and calibrate remote sensing products with CPR data. In particular, SAHFOS will focus on developing the Water and Microbial Sampler (WAMS) jointly with Cefas and developing DNA microarrays for Harmful Algal Blooms with the Marine Biological Association for the UK. This will allow the CPR survey to monitor the full size range of plankton in the oceans from the larger plankton (which the CPR already samples) to the nano and pico plankton size ranges.
Objective
1 MAINTENANCE OF CORE OBSERVING SYSTEM: To maintain the integrity of, and increase by increments the multidecadal databases for the core areas of the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) survey in UK regional sea, the NE Atlantic and the North Atlantic. To monitor and describe, the long-term, pelagic variability and diversity in these core areas of the CPR survey. To secure the long-term maintenance of the CPR sample archive as well as the new microbial and metazoan archive and maximise its use by making it available for molecular, biogeochemical and other studies.

2. MAINTENANCE OF QUALITY AND EXPERTISE: To adhere to strict Quality Control procedures and improve survey skills in logistics, maintenance of equipment, taxonomy and analysis. To retain and improve scientific skills in innovative statistical analysis, modelling, data processing, interpretation and assessment. Aim to become a recognised international centre of excellence in plankton morphological taxonomy including a branch of molecular ecology and phylogenetics.

3. INNOVATIVE MARINE ECOLOGICAL RESEARCH: To utilise data collected by SAHFOS to interpret marine biological changes and attempt to distinguish between anthropogenic, climatically forced and natural plankton variability. Scientific research will be directed along four science themes: (i) Macroecology and climate change impacts; (ii) Biodiversity and changes to ecosystem functionality; (iii) Sustainable use of marine bio-resources; (iv) Environment, pollution and ecosystem health. All of these themes are highly relevant to UK marine policy requirements. SAHFOS will continue to develop new indicators that can assess the ecological health of U.K. regional seas. The indicator approach used by SAHFOS will be highly relevant to assessing and monitoring Good Environmental Status (GES) in UK and European waters as part of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD).

4. DATA PROVISION AND MODEL VALIDATION: To collaborate with UK and European agencies (e.g. Cefas, Nerc, DTU-AQUA, FRS, IFREMER, IMARES, IMR), laboratories and associated organisations and especially modelling groups outside SAHFOS to increase understanding of links between CPR data and long-term changes in the environment and fish stocks. To increase the use of the CPR database through involvement with external researchers/organisations and within ICES working groups with the aim of improving our understanding of the changes occurring in the North Atlantic marine system. This will help to develop an ecosystem based management for marine resources conservation.

5. NEW TECHNOLOGIES AND ADDED VALUE: Although not directly funded through this proposal SAHFOS will aim to add value to the CPR survey by instrumenting routes when possible and cost-effective and by implementing relevant new technologies, in partnership with other organisations. In particular, SAHFOS will focus on developing the Water and Microbial Sampler (WAMS) jointly with Cefas and developing DNA microarrays for Harmful Algal Blooms with the Marine Biological Association for the UK. Future rapid cell identification methods will be explored using flow cytometry to sort cells on size and pigment to further classify and quantify cells by size and pigment which can be isolated for later molecular analysis.

6. INTERNATIONAL CONTRIBUTIONS: SAHFOS will continue to promote the CPR approach in international programmes such as the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS) and organisations such as the Scientific Committee for Oceanographic Research (SCOR), the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) and the Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS).
Time-Scale and Cost
From: 2011

To: 2021

Cost: £3,483,800
Contractor / Funded Organisations
Sir Alastair Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science
Keywords