FULL REPORT

Zooplankton









Lead Author: 

Anthony J. Richardson 1

Co Authors: David McKinnon 2, and Kerrie M. Swadling 3

Download this report in PDF format: Click here

What is happening?

Decline of cold-water zooplankton and increase in warm-water species with warming off eastern Tasmania from the 1970s to the present. Reduced calcification of pteropod snail shells over the past 40 years in northeast and north-west Australia.

What is expected?

Range shifts toward higher latitudes, earlier zooplankton blooms with warming, changes in nutrient enrichment and thus zooplankton abundance, and reduction in pteropod and foram abundance due to acidification will reorganize foodwebs in time and space and impact fish, seabirds and marine mammals.

What we are doing about it?

Australia is now better placed to track and respond to changes in zooplankton abundance, distribution and timing through the IMOS AusCPR (Australian Continuous Plankton Recorder) survey and National Reference Stations program.

Summary

Zooplankton are (generally) microscopic animals that float and have limited ability to swim against currents. Zooplankton play many important roles in marine systems, including directly and indirectly feeding most fish, turtles, seabirds, mammals, and bottom-dwelling animals, shaping the pace of climate change, and producing oil and natural gas deposits by their death and decomposition. In the first Report Card in 2009, there were no published impacts of climate change on Australian zooplankton, but now we have two studies. Between the early 1970s and 2000-2009 off eastern Tasmania, abundances of key cold-water zooplankton species have declined and warm-water species have increased. The second study suggested thinning and increased porosity of shells of two pteropod snails in NW and NE Australia over the past 40 years as ocean pH declined. These changes are likely to be the first of many in the future that could have profound effects on marine foodwebs. We have HIGH CONFIDENCE that the distribution of smaller and less abundant subtropical and tropical zooplankton species will expand poleward, and that larger and more abundant temperate and polar species will retract poleward. We have HIGH CONFIDENCE that the phenology of temperate and polar species will move earlier as temperatures warm. We have MEDIUM CONFIDENCE that calcifying plankton will be detrimentally affected by ocean acidification as pH declines. We also have MEDIUM CONFIDENCE that the abundance of zooplankton will change as temperature warms, with a mosaic of increases and decreases in zooplankton abundance in response to climate change. Collectively, these changes are likely to cause spatial reorganization of foodwebs in temperate and polar regions, trophic mismatch in temperate regions, changes in nutrient enrichment, and direct effects on zooplankton calcifiers. These impacts of climate change on zooplankton will cause widespread and significant changes (often negative, some positive) to higher trophic levels. Australia is well placed to track and respond to such changes through the Integrated Marine Observing System.

Citation: Richardson, A.J. (2012) Zooplankton. In A Marine Climate Change Impacts and Adaptation Report Card for Australia 2012 (Eds. E.S. Poloczanska, A.J. Hobday and A.J. Richardson). Retrieved from www.oceanclimatechange.org.au [Date]

Contact Details: 
1 University of Queensland, School of Mathematics and Physics, St Lucia, QLD 4072
Climate Adaptation Flagship, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research, Ecosciences Precinct, GPO Box 2583, Brisbane, Queensland 4102, Australia
.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
2 Australian Institute of Marine Science, P. M. B. No. 3, Townsville M. C., Qld, 4810
3 Institute for Marine and Antarctic Science, University of Tasmania, Private Bag 129, Hobart, TAS 7001

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Authors

Anthony  Richardson

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Dr Anthony Richardson's work is recognised internationally for significant contributions in the fields of climate impacts on marine species,...
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Kerrie  Swadling

Kerrie swadling

Kerrie Swadling is a zooplankton ecologist at the University of Tasmania/ Tasmanian Aquaculture and Fisheries Institute who has worked in temperate...
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David  McKinnon

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Dr. David McKinnon has over 25 years experience as a biological oceanographer, and has research interests in zooplankton dynamics, planktonic food...
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Scientific Review:

Zooplankton is a generic term describing animals that have limited locomotive ability relative to the water bodies they inhabit. Zooplankton vary hugely in size, ranging from about 20 μm (microzooplankton) to 20 m in length (some gelatinous zooplankton). Zooplankton communities contain representatives of at least a dozen phyla. Almost all marine animals, whether they live in the water column or on the seafloor, have an early dispersive phase that is part of the zooplankton; examples include eggs or larvae of lobsters, seastars, most fish and corals.

The most important role of zooplankton is as grazers in ocean foodwebs, providing the principal pathway for energy from plants to consumers at higher trophic levels such as tuna, sharks, seabirds and seals. Regeneration of nitrogen through excretion by zooplankton helps support phytoplankton and bacterial production. Microbes also colonize zooplankton faecal pellets and carcasses, making them rich sources of organic carbon for detrital feeders. This decomposing zooplankton matter consistently rains down onto the seabed, sustaining diverse benthic communities of sponges, crabs and fish (Ruhl and Smith 2004). Zooplankton also play an important role in the cycling of nitrogen and carbon in the oceans, and they are important in sequestering carbon to the deep ocean. Much of the CO2 that is fixed by phytoplankton is eaten by zooplankton and is subsequently exported to deeper layers through sinking of faeces and carcasses. Zooplankton migrate each day into the ocean depths to avoid near-surface predatory fish, thus aiding the export of carbon to deeper waters. Zooplankton that have died tens of millions of years ago have formed the oil and natural gas deposits upon which modern society depends. Without the diverse roles performed by zooplankton, our oceans would be devoid of almost all the large fish, mammals, and turtles that are of such immense aesthetic, social, financial and ecological value.

Finally, zooplankton are sensitive indicators of climate change (Hays et al. 2005) because they are short-lived (weeks to months), poikilothermic (physiological processes are controlled by temperature), and largely not commercially exploited so long-term trends in response to environmental change are less confounded with exploitation than those of higher trophic-level taxa, and can be sampled over ocean basin scales using plankton recorders.

Multiple stressors

Fishing (through top-down processes) and eutrophication (through bottom-up processes) are indirect stressors on zooplankton and will interact with climate change. The effect of human-produced eutrophication on zooplankton is likely to be substantial near the coast, and the effect of fishing on zooplankton is likely to play more of a role in semi-enclosed bays and seas. These interactive effects on the abundance of different trophic levels, including zooplankton, are likely to be synergistic, antagonistic or additive (Crain et al. 2008, Griffith et al. 2011, 2012).


Observed Impacts:


Table 1. Observed and predicted impacts of climate change on zooplankton in Australia.


Impacts of climate change and ocean acidification on zooplankton can manifest as poleward movements in their distribution (range shifts), earlier timing of important life cycle events (phenology), changes in abundance and community structure, and declines in abundance of calcifiers (summarized in Table 1). In the 2009 Report Card, there were no studies on the effect of long-term climate change or ocean acidification on zooplankton in Australian waters. Since then, in Australia there has been one study assessing impacts of ocean acidification (Roger et al. 2012), one study on changes in distribution of warm-water and cold-water species that has led to changes in local abundance (Johnson et al. 2011), and one study that alludes to changes in abundance of a warm-water species (Henschke et al. 2011). Each study will be described below in relation to the primary climate variables considered.


Temperature

Johnson et al. (2011) investigated the change in flora and fauna near Maria Island (off the east coast of Tasmania), associated with the strong warming in the region. There was a consistent signal in the response of giant kelp, nearshore fishes, and the plankton community. For zooplankton between the early 1970s and 2000-2009, the community exhibited a shift from species typical of colder water to those typical of much warmer conditions (Fig. 1). Warm-water copepod species are typical of those found in the warm East Australia Current. The East Australian Current now makes more incursions into eastern Tasmanian waters than in previous decades (Ridgway 2007, Hill et al. 2008). The increase in strength of the EAC is likely to be a response to climate change (Johnson et al. 2011) and has contributed to ocean off south eastern Australia warming at ~3–4 times the global average over recent decades (Ridgway 2007). This change from cold- to warm-water zooplankton species is likely to have impacts on the food web, as the historical cold-water species are generally larger in size and are thought to provide a better food environment for higher trophic levels such as fish, seabirds and marine mammals (Beaugrand et al. 2003).




Figure 1. Changes in zooplankton abundance (mean±SE) in samples collected off Maria Island for (a) cold-water ‘signature’ species (first column of plots) and (b) warm-water (East Australia Current) ‘signature’ species (second and third columns of plots). Cold-water species are generally more abundant in samples collected during the 1970s, while warm-water species have become more prominent in samples collected between 2000 and 2009. From Fig. 4 in Johnson et al. (2011).


The decline of cold-water zooplankton species and increase in warm-water ones that are expanding their ranges as water temperature increases is consistent with what is happening in other systems. These regions include the North Sea (Beaugrand et al. 2002), Northeast Atlantic (Bonnet et al. 2005; Beaugrand et al. 2002, Lindley & Daykin 2005) and Northwest Atlantic (Johns et al. 2001).


Generally, range shifts exhibited by zooplankton in response to global warming, with a mean translocation of ~200 km per decade (Richardson 2008), are among the fastest and largest of any group globally, marine or terrestrial. By comparison, a global meta-analysis of range shifts across 99 species of birds, butterflies, and alpine herbs found that they moved polewards (or upwards) by an average of only 6.1 km per decade (Parmesan and Yohe 2003).


Henschke et al. (2011) provide another Australian study of possible impacts of climate change on zooplankton. They studied salp blooms off New South Wales during a cruise in 2008 and only briefly mention possible effects of climate change. Using an identical net to those used in a study of the same area in 1938-1943, they found an order of magnitude increase in the salp Thalia democratica (Fig. 2). An increase in salps with warming since the 1970s has been suggested in the Southern Ocean (Atkinson et al. 2004). As Henschke et al. (2011) make clear, it is weak evidence of the impacts of climate change, as salps are notorious for massive yet ephemeral blooms. More estimates of the abundance of salps through time are needed.


Figure 2. The aggregate form of the salp Thalia democratica. Image courtesy of Anita Slotwinski, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research. Pink colouration is result of a stain.


Ocean acidification
Calcium carbonate structures are present in a variety of important zooplankton groups including molluscs (snails), echinoderms (seastars, sea urchins), foraminifera and some crustaceans (Raven et al. 2005). The direct effect of ocean acidification on calcifying zooplankton will be to partially erode their shells, increasing shell maintenance costs and reducing growth. But even among marine organisms with calcium carbonate shells, susceptibility to acidification varies, depending on whether the crystalline form of their calcium carbonate is aragonite or calcite. Aragonite is more soluble under acidic conditions than calcite. As oceans continue to absorb CO2, undersaturation of aragonite and calcite in seawater will be initially most acute in the Southern Ocean and will then move northward. There will also be synergistic effects between impacts of acidification and warming on organisms.


A recent study investigated implications of the declining aragonite saturation state in tropical waters off Northwest Australia and on the Great Barrier Reef for two pteropod molluscs (Roger et al. 2012). These winged snails (“sea butterflies”) are likely to be the zooplankton group most vulnerable to ocean acidification because of their aragonite shells. The shell structures of two tropical pteropod species, Creseis acicula and Diacavolinia longirostris (Fig. 3), were analyzed for the period 1963 to 2009. Roger et al. (2012) described a thinning of shell thickness of both species (C. acicula by -4.43 μm, D. longirostris by -5.37 μm) and an increase in shell porosity (Fig. 4, C. acicula by +1.43%, D. longirostris by +8.69%). Simultaneously, the aragonite saturation level of tropical surface waters showed a decline by 10% from 1963 to 2009. Both the decline in shell thickness and increase in shell porosity are consistent with the hypothesis that ocean acidification is affecting shell structures. The work, although not conclusive because of irregular sampling, does suggest that pteropods off northern Australia may have been influenced by the decline in aragonite saturation state over the past few decades. Such adverse effects could ultimately affect pteropod survival and that of their predators such as fish.


Figure 3. The pteropod Diacavolinia longirostris. Image courtesy of Russ Hopcroft, University of Alaska, Fairbanks.

Figure 4. SEM image subsamples for the porosity index (PI, % per 100 nm2, magnification ~100,000 times) measurements of the shell surface of C. acicula in (a) 1985 (average PI=0.29), (b) 2009 (average PI=1.66), and of D. longirostris in (c) 1985 (average PI=0.23) and (d) 2009 (average PI=8.93). From Fig. 6 in Roger et al. (2012).


These findings are consistent with other studies globally (Fabry et al. 2008, Widdicomb and Spicer 2008). For example, experiments over as little as 48 hours show shell deterioration in the pteropod Clio pyrimidata at atmospheric CO2 levels approximating those likely around 2100 under a business-as-usual emissions scenario (Orr et al. 2005).

 

Potential Impacts by the 2030s and 2100s: 


There are likely to be substantial changes in distribution, phenology and abundance by both 2030 and 2100 (Table 1). Although, we have little knowledge of likely quantitative changes of zooplankton at different times and under different emissions scenarios into the future, we do have some qualitative information.


Abundance

The effect on plankton abundance of changes in nutrient enrichment in response to climate change will probably have the most profound impacts on marine foodwebs. Indirect impacts of climate change on nutrient enrichment could outweigh direct impacts of temperature change and acidification on foodwebs. In particular, oligotrophic (low nutrient) tropical regions with little seasonality, such as those in Northern Australia, could be sensitive to changes in nutrient enrichment (McKinnon et al. 2007). Physical atmospheric and oceanic processes, such as upwelling, fronts and eddies, drive nutrient enrichment and thus phytoplankton and zooplankton abundance, size structure, and community composition (Fig. 5). Changes to these physical processes as a consequence of climate change will alter nutrient enrichment and plankton communities, with lower nutrient concentrations leading to less and smaller-sized plankton, while enhanced nutrient concentrations result in greater abundance of and larger plankton. Phytoplankton and zooplankton community structure will also change, with picoplankton and the nitrogen-fixing cyanobacterium Trichodesmium (in tropical regions) likely to be more important if nutrient input declines. Such changes in plankton community structure have profound impacts on zooplankton.




Figure 5. The role of nutrient enrichment, determined by physical processes, in regulating plankton ecosystem structure. Changes to physical processes that lead to nutrient enrichment produce plankton communities dominated by large phytoplankton (diatoms) and crustacean zooplankton, whereas physical processes that lead to lower nutrient concentrations produce communities dominated by small phyto- and zooplankton. From Fig. 6.3 in McKinnon et al. (2007).


There is one projection of plankton biomass into the future that provides some suggestion of what might happen in Australia. Brown et al. (2010) used a Nutrient-Phytoplankton-Zooplankton model forced by the CSIRO Mk3.5 GCM and an A2 emission scenario. They projected that phytoplankton biomass would increase around much of Australia by 2050 (Fig. 6). This could result in a concomitant increase in zooplankton biomass and higher fisheries yields (Brown et al. 2010). However, there is considerable uncertainty in projections of changes in primary production and even more on its consequent effect on zooplankton abundance. Many modeling studies predict declines in phytoplankton abundance globally, especially in the tropics (Sarmiento et al. 2004, Bopp et al. 2004, 2005, Steinacher et al. 2010). However, observational studies generally show an increase in primary production over recent decades (Chavez et al. 2011; McGallop-Quatters et al. 2007), although exceptions do exist (Boyce et al. 2010). Many models are still relatively simple and do not include such important processes as different scaling of respiration, and changes in pH that make carbon more available.


Phenology

There is no information on phenology changes in zooplankton in Australian waters, but there are many observations from temperate regions of the North Atlantic and North Pacific that might provide some clues. These studies show that zooplankton phenology is sensitive to warming and generally advances more than three times faster (7.6 days per decade, Richardson 2008) than terrestrial plants and animals (2.3 days per decade, Parmesan & Yohe 2003). Of most concern is that plankton functional groups do not respond to ocean warming synchronously. With warming of about 1°C in the North Sea over 45 years (1958-2002), phytoplankton abundance has peaked earlier by three weeks, but zooplankton by only about one week. This could result in predator–prey mismatches that reduce energy transfer to higher trophic levels, diminishing fish recruitment (Edwards and Richardson 2004). Large changes in phenology are likely in temperate and polar Australian waters.


Figure 6. Predicted relative percent change in phytoplankton production rate from the 2000–2004 mean to 2050. The CSIRO Mk 3.5 global climate model was used to force a nutrient-phytoplankton-zooplankton submodel under the A2 emission scenario. Phytoplankton biomass is predicted to generally increase around Australia and this would likely lead to higher zooplankton biomass. From Brown et al. (2010)

Distribution

Although we have no quantitative projections, it is highly likely that the changes in zooplankton distribution observed by Johnson et al. (2011) off eastern Tasmania will continue. Effects of this spatial reorganization of lower trophic levels could have a profound effect on higher trophic levels; work from the Northeast Atlantic highlights possible effects on fish that we might expect. Warm-water communities of copepods (the most abundant zooplankton) have expanded poleward by 1,100 km. As the cool-water copepod assemblage, which has high biomass and is dominated by relatively large species that peak in abundance in spring, has retracted polewards as waters have warmed, it has been replaced in the North Sea by the warm-water assemblage, which typically has lower biomass and contains smaller species that peak in abundance in autumn and not spring. This has reduced numbers of Atlantic cod Gadus morhua, traditionally a major fishery of the North Sea. When cod spawn in spring, their larvae require a diet of large copepods. If this food source is not available, larval mortality is high and recruitment to the fished stock is poor. Since the late 1980s, when the cool-water assemblage was replaced by the warm-water one, there has been very low copepod biomass during spring in the North Sea, and cod recruitment has plummeted (Beaugrand et al. 2003). This spatial reorganization of zooplankton species in the North Sea has had considerable impacts on fisheries, and similar responses could happen off Southeast Australia.


Calcification

Although the study by Roger et al. (2012) is suggestive that ocean acidification is already affecting pteropods, it is highly likely that such effects will increase throughout this century. First the aragonite and then the calcite saturation state of a large portion of Australian waters could decline below levels needed for shell formation and maintenance in calcifying plankton. Under-saturation of aragonite and calcite in seawater is likely to be more acute at higher latitudes, but these conditions will subsequently move toward the equator. Pteropods are likely to decline in abundance, and may eventually disappear in response to ocean acidification in some areas.


Larvae of sea urchins and molluscs form skeletal parts consisting of magnesium-bearing calcite that form through an amorphous precursor phase, which is 30 times more soluble than calcite (Politi et al 2004). The same type of skeletal material is used by most adult echinoderms. Thus, the meroplanktonic larvae of molluscs and echinoderms are particularly sensitive to ocean acidification and this could negatively affect their adult populations and thus benthic community structure.


Another zooplankton group potentially sensitive to ocean acidification is the Foraminifera. Tests (shells) of dead Foraminifera contribute a significant proportion of the sediments in many sandy regions of tropical Australia. Although they are formed from calcite and are thus less susceptible to ocean acidification than organisms composed of aragonite, calcite-producing Foraminifera are likely to be negatively impacted by reduced pH in the longer term. There is currently no observational evidence on the effect of ocean acidification on Foraminifera in Australia, but they have shown a decline in calcification rate in the Southern Ocean (Moy et al. 2009).

Confidence Assessments

Observed Impacts: 


Amount of Evidence (theory, observations, models)


Temperature

We currently have LIMITED EVIDENCE of the impact of temperature on zooplankton distribution within Australia. We have MEDIUM EVIDENCE of the impact of temperature on zooplankton distribution globally. There are several studies describing changes in zooplankton distribution with warming (Richardson 2008, Beaugrand et al. 2002, Lindley & Daykin 2005, Johns et al. 2001).


Ocean acidification

We currently have LIMITED EVIDENCE of the impact of ocean acidification on zooplankton within Australia, as we only have a single study (Roger et al. 2012) and it is not conclusive. We have LIMITED EVIDENCE of the impact of ocean acidification on zooplankton globally. There have been few studies of ocean acidification based on time series. Studies by Ohman et al. (2009) concluded that there had been no observed changes in zooplankton in response to declining ocean acidification in the California Current. Data from the North Atlantic show that there is no consistent decline in zooplankton in response to pH declines (see www.sahfos.ac.uk).


Degree of Consensus (high level of statistical agreement, model confidence)


Temperature

Within Australia, there is only a single study describing the change in distribution with warming, so no consensus rating can be provided. Globally, we have a HIGH LEVEL of agreement on the changes in distribution of zooplankton in response to warming globally, with warm-water species showing poleward movements and cold-water species concomitantly showing poleward retractions (Beaugrand et al. 2002, Johns et al. 2001).


Ocean acidification

Within Australia, there is only a single study describing the effect of ocean acidification on zooplankton, so no consensus rating can be provided. Globally, we have a LOW LEVEL of agreement in the response of zooplankton to ocean acidification. There appears to be no consistent response yet observed. Experimental evidence is contradictory, with significant impacts on zooplankton of lower net calcification rates, reduced fertilization success, slower developmental rates, and smaller larval size, but the results are species specific (Raven et al., 2005; Fabry et al., 2008; Doney et al., 2009).


Confidence Level


Temperature

Within Australia, we have VERY LOW confidence that zooplankton distributions are responding to warming, as we have only a single study (Johnson et al. 2011). Globally, we have HIGH CONFIDENCE that zooplankton distributions are moving poleward in response to climate change because we have MEDIUM EVIDENCE and HIGH AGREEMENT among these studies.


Ocean acidification

Within Australia, we have VERY LOW CONFIDENCE that zooplankton is responding to ocean acidification, as we have only a single study (off tropical Australia). Further, the study was not conclusive, but suggestive that acidification could play a role. Globally, we have VERY LOW CONFIDENCE in the response of zooplankton to ocean acidification because we have LIMITED EVIDENCE and a LOW LEVEL OF AGREEMENT between these studies.

Potential Impacts by the 2030s and 2100s: 



Confidence Assessment: Projected Impacts

Amount of Evidence (theory, observations, models)


Abundance

We have ROBUST EVIDENCE that zooplankton abundances will change as a result of changes in nutrient enrichment from climate change. This evidence comes from nutrient-phytoplankton and zooplankton models linked to global climate models, our theoretical knowledge of the response of plankton to nutrient enrichment, and current observations.


Phenology

We have ROBUST EVIDENCE from physiology and observations that the earlier phenology of many species in temperate and polar regions will continue.


Distribution

We have ROBUST EVIDENCE from theory and observations that the poleward penetration of warm-water zooplankton communities and the retraction of cold-water communities, already observed in Australia and globally, will continue and accelerate?.


Calcification

We have MEDIUM EVIDENCE from physiology, from some present observations and from palaeontological data that by the end of the century the calcification rates of some calcifying zooplankton species will be affected.


Degree of Consensus (high level of statistical agreement, model confidence)


Abundance

There is little consensus about whether climate change will generally increase or decrease nutrient enrichment in the oceans, and this is the key to projecting whether zooplankton will increase or decrease. There is thus LOW CONSENSUS on whether zooplankton abundance will generally increase or decrease globally, or around Australia. Some models and some observations suggest that phytoplankton and zooplankton could increase in abundance in polar regions, whilst abundances in tropical areas might decline.


Phenology

There is MEDIUM CONSENSUS that zooplankton timing will advance as waters warm. Rates at which timings shift are likely to be faster than those of most other groups.

Distribution

There is MEDIUM CONSENSUS that zooplankton will move poleward as waters warm. Rates of movement are likely to be faster than those of most other groups.


Calcification

There is MEDIUM CONSENSUS on the effects of ocean acidification on calcifying zooplankton. From experimental work it appears that only some species will be affected.


Confidence Level


Abundance

We have MEDIUM CONFIDENCE that the abundance of zooplankton will change as temperature warms. There is likely to be a mosaic of increases and decreases in zooplankton abundance in response to climate change and it is currently difficult to predict responses in particular regions.


Phenology

We have HIGH CONFIDENCE that the phenology of temperate and polar species will move earlier as temperatures warm. Responses of phytoplankton and of predators could influence the response, as will species-specific differences.


Distribution

We have HIGH CONFIDENCE that the distribution of subtropical and tropical zooplankton species will expand poleward, and that temperate and polar species will retract poleward.


Calcification

We have MEDIUM CONFIDENCE that calcifying plankton will be detrimentally affected by ocean acidification as pH declines. Responses could be complex and species-specific, as effects of temperature increases can interact with effects of ocean acidification.


Observations and Modelling

Current and planned research effort

The Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS, http://www.imos.org.au) is the most significant research initiative in Australia investigating the response of zooplankton communities to climate variability and change. IMOS has two programmes focused on zooplankton observations and all data are freely available from http://imos.aodn.org.au/ The l.arger of the two zooplankton programmes is the Australian Continuous Plankton Recorder survey (AusCPR). AusCPR uses ships of opportunity to tow CPRs and automatically collect plankton samples. There are regular routes on the east, west and south coasts of Australia, in the Southern Ocean, and across the Tasman Sea to New Zealand (Fig. 7). This survey has towed 65,000 km (one and a half times around the Earth) and counted 6,936 samples.

IMOS also has a network of nine National Reference Stations with moorings measuring physical variables and these are visited monthly to seasonally, collecting information on phytoplankton and zooplankton abundance and community composition (Fig. 7). Zooplankton sampling from Port Hacking (off Sydney) stretches back to 1998, with the remainder of the National References Stations having data since 2008 (North Stradbroke Island) or after. IMOS has filled much of the gap in our capcity to observe trends in lower trophic levels in Australian waters, and it will require further Commonwealth funding in 2013 to continue. This observing system for zooplankton will provide an early warning of changes in Australian plankton communities.



Figure 7. The number of zooplankton samples collected as part of the IMOS Australian Continuous Plankton Recorder survey (in red, green and yellow) and the National Reference Stations (pink).

Further Information

If you would like more information on the plankton component of IMOS, see http://imos.org.au/australiancontinuousplanktonr.html or contact .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) to be placed on the mailing list for the AusCPR newsletter.


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