Time series data (1949-2003) from the Continuous Plankton Recorder demonstrates the impact of climate-driven change on the biological interactions between benthic and pelagic ecosystem components in the North Sea.
Over the last five decades, and particularly in the 1980s, there have been substantial changes in zooplankton abundance, species composition and phenology in the North Sea. Such changes have been widely documented and were observed in three different trophic levels from phytoplankton to fish; they reflected a shift toward a warmer dynamic equilibrium and have had significant implications for ecosystems structure, including commercial fisheries. Climate drivers have been hypothesised to be responsible for the ecological regime shift that occurred in the North Sea plankton during the 1980s. This study from Kirby et al. shows that echinoderm larvae are very sensitive, resulting to their abundance responding quickly to variations in winter and spring SST and a stepwise warming in North Sea surface temperature after 1987. The authors further suggest that the increased presence of meroplankton might possibly be detrimental to some holozooplanktonic taxa, such as the declining copepods, through added competition for food resources.
Studies of this type demonstrate that changes climate may have a direct impact on some organisms but also an indirect impact through the biological linkages between various ecosystem components and highlights the importance to move towards a better mechanistic understanding of the complex interrelated biological changes likely to happen if current prediction of increasing temperature resulting from global climate change are realised.
Reviewed by: Sophie Pitois, CEFAS
SP is a Zooplankton Ecologist at CEFAS working on the impact of climate change on zooplantkon and fisheries on the UK shelf.
Kirby, R. R., Gregory Beaugrand*, John A. Lindley, Anthony J. Richardson, Martin Edwards, Philip C. Reid*, 2007. Climate effects and benthic–pelagic coupling in the North Sea, MEPS in press
- EUROCEANS sponsored workshop on 'Significance of Changes in Surface CO2 and Ocean pH in Shelf Sea Ecosystems' - 2-4 May 2007