IJMS Themed Set - Marine zooplankton time-series and the sustainable management of marine resources

In the latest themed set in ICES Journal of Marine Science, the importance of time-series data for zooplankton community structure and distribution is presented along with the resulting impact of warming seas on marine ecosystems.
Published: 12 May 2022

For more than 30 years, ​ICES Working Group on Zooplankton Ecology (WGZE) has played an essential part in advancing our understanding of zooplankton community structure and population dynamics in the world’s oceans. A particular accomplishment of the group was the development of zooplankton time-series, which now includes more than 100 sites throughout the entire North Atlantic Ocean and adjacent seas. Zooplankton play a critical role in the marine pelagic ecosystem at the interface of the “lower” and “upper” trophic levels, influencing both the ocean’s biogeochemical cycles and productivity. Zooplankton are sensitive to environmental change and variations in their abundance, biomass, community, and size structure are important indicators of overall ecosystem status.

As it is difficult to predict changes in marine zooplankton communities, their distribution, or biomass, long-term time-series have proven invaluable in providing this type of information. Such time-series are key to understanding the dynamics of productivity-determining processes in marine ecosystems, such as recruitment variability and food web interactions.

Marine zooplankton time series: essential tools to understand variability in productivity-determining processes in the oceans, the latest themed set from ICES Journal of Marine Science, brings together process-oriented contributions based on marine zooplankton time-series datasets and their application to understanding global change and the sustainable management of marine ecosystem resources and services. Another goal of the set was to test marine ecological or fisheries oceanographic hypotheses, to support the development of the United Nations’ (UN) Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development​ by addressing Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 13 (Climate action) and 14 (Life below water).

To address the existing and future challenges outlined by the SDGs, current zooplankton monitoring activities must be strengthened and maintained. Technologies continue to advance towards automation of data collection and/or analysis (e.g. acoustics, molecular, image analysis, and machine learning tools), allowing for higher resolution and more comprehensive data. As such, it will be important to integrate these newer methods with traditional ones to ensure continuity of existing time-series from a more diverse suite of plankton sampling equipment. This would facilitate the inclusion of zooplankton data into fisheries models, supporting an ecosystem-based management approach.

Sophie Pitois from Cefas​ in the UK and Lidia Yebra, Málaga Oceanographic Centre, Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO) in Spain are the current co-chairs of WGZE. They have worked together to bring about this themed set. Yebra notes, “The results demonstrate that zooplankton time-series are key tools to understand how changes in the oceans are affecting the planktonic communities and the services they provide to us, and therefore time-series should not be seen as an expense but as a cost-effective investment in high-quality scientific data for better management of the marine environment.”
Understanding productivity-determining processes provides the scientific basis for the sustainable use of ecosystem goods and services (e.g. management of fisheries) and maintenance of ecosystem integrity.
“This themed set is intended as a homage to Steve Hay who sadly passed away on June 25, 2020, at the age of 70”, says Pitois. Steve Hay was one of Scotland’s leading marine zooplankton ecologists and played an integral role in establishing the long-term monitoring sites at Stonehaven and Loch Ewe which have become key components of the Scottish Coastal Observatory.


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​Cartoon: Bas Köhler. ​Click to enlarge.

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IJMS Themed Set - Marine zooplankton time-series and the sustainable management of marine resources

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