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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 200:93-102 (2000)  -  doi:10.3354/meps200093

Spatial, seasonal and long-term fluctuations of plankton in relation to hydroclimatic features in the English Channel, Celtic Sea and Bay of Biscay

Grégory Beaugrand1,2,*, Frédéric Ibañez2, Philip C. Reid1

1Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, Plymouth PL1 2PB, United Kingdom
2Laboratoire d¹Océanographie biologique et d¹Ecologie du plancton marin, ESA 7076, Station zoologique, BP 28, 06230 Villefranche-sur-Mer, France

ABSTRACT: Plankton collected by the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) survey were investigated for the English Channel, Celtic Sea and Bay of Biscay from 1979 to 1995. The main goal was to study the relationship between climate and plankton and to understand the factors influencing it. In order to take into account the spatial and temporal structure of biological data, a three-mode principal component analysis (PCA) was developed. It not only identified 5 zones characterised by their similar biological composition and by the seasonal and inter-annual evolution of the plankton, it also made species associations based on their location and year-to-year change. The studied species have stronger year-to-year fluctuations in abundance over the English Channel and Celtic Sea than the species offshore in the Bay of Biscay. The changes in abundance of plankton in the English Channel are negatively related to inter-annual changes of climatic conditions from December to March (North Atlantic Oscillation [NAO] index and air temperature). Thus, the negative relationship shown by Fromentin & Planque (1996; Mar Ecol Prog Ser 134:111-118) between year-to-year changes of Calanus finmarchicus abundance in the northern North Atlantic and North Sea and NAO was also found for the most abundant copepods in the Channel. However, the hypothesis proposed to explain the plankton/NAO relationship is different for this region and a new hypothesis is proposed. In the Celtic Sea, a relationship between the planktomic assemblage and the air temperature was detected, but it is weaker than for the English Channel. No relationship was found for the Bay of Biscay. Thus, the local physical environment and the biological composition of these zones appear to modify the relationship between winter climatic conditions and the year-to-year fluctuations of the studied planktonic species. This shows, therefore, that the relationship between climate and plankton is difficult to generalise.

KEY WORDS: Plankton · Long-term changes · Spatial variation · Seasonal fluctuation · Three-mode principal component analysis (PCA) · Winter climatic condition

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