The Continuous Plankton Recorder survey: How can long-term phytoplankton datasets contribute to the assessment of Good Environmental Status?

Abigail McQuatters-Gollop, Martin Edwards, Pierre Helaouët, David G. Johns, Nicholas J.P. Owens, Dionysios E. Raitsos, Declan Schroeder, Jennifer Skinner, Rowena F. Stern

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Phytoplankton are crucial to marine ecosystem functioning and are important indicators of environmental change. Phytoplankton data are also essential for informing management and policy, particularly in supporting the new generation of marine legislative drivers, which take a holistic ecosystem approach to management. The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) seeks to achieve Good Environmental Status (GES) of European seas through the implementation of such a management approach. This is a regional scale directive which recognises the importance of plankton communities in marine ecosystems; plankton data at the appropriate spatial, temporal and taxonomic scales are therefore required for implementation. The Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) survey is a multidecadal, North Atlantic-basin scale programme which routinely records approximately 300 phytoplankton taxa. Because of these attributes, the survey plays a key role in the implementation of the MSFD and the assessment of GES in the Northeast Atlantic region. This paper addresses the role of the CPR's phytoplankton time-series in delivering GES through the development and informing of MSFD indicators, the setting of targets against a background of climate change and the provision of supporting information used to interpret change in non-plankton indicators. We also discuss CPR data in the context of other phytoplankton data types that may contribute to GES, as well as explore future possibilities for the use of new and innovative applications of CPR phytoplankton datasets in delivering GES. Efforts must be made to preserve long-term time series, such as the CPR, which supply vital ecological information used to informed evidence-based environmental policy.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)88-97
Number of pages10
JournalEstuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science
StatePublished - Sep 5 2015

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors would like to extend our gratitude to the CPR survey's supporters. We must thank, in particular, past and present CPR plankton taxonomists as well as the merchant navy which voluntarily tows CPRs – both are integral to this unique dataset. A.M.G. is gratefully supported by a NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship as well as SCOR 137: Working Group on Global Coastal Phytoplankton Time-series.


  • Climate changes
  • Continuous plankton recorder
  • Ocean policy
  • Phytoplankton
  • Time-series


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