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Marine Ecology Progress Series

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MEPS 265:283-287 (2003)  -  doi:10.3354/meps265283

Increased blooms of a dinoflagellate in the NW Atlantic

D. G. Johns1,*, M. Edwards1, A. Richardson1, J. I. Spicer2

1Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS), The Laboratory, Citadel Hill, The Hoe, Plymouth, PL1 2PB, UK 2School of Biological Sciences, University of Plymouth, Plymouth PL4 8AA, UK

ABSTRACT: Sampling by the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) over the NW Atlantic from 1960 to 2000 has enabled long-term studies of the larger components of the phytoplankton community, highlighting various changes, particularly during the 1990s. Analysis of an index of phytoplankton biomass, the Phytoplankton Colour Index (PCI) has revealed an increase over the past decade, most marked during the winter (December to February) months. Examination of the structure of the community using multiple linear-regression models indicates that the winter phytoplankton community composition has changed markedly in the 1990s compared to the 1960s. One phytoplankter, the dinoflagellate Ceratium arcticum (Cleve), has undergone dramatic changes in abundance during this period, with pronounced large winter blooms and decreased autumnal levels, and its contribution to the Phytoplankton Colour index values has increased significantly. Other dominant species in the phytoplankton community, both diatoms and dinoflagellates, did not show the same variations over the examined time period. It is suggested that the response of C. arcticum is probably a result of previously reported changes in stratification in the NW Atlantic, due to dynamic hydro-climatic (freshening and cooling) events.

KEY WORDS: Phytoplankton · Long-term changes · Blooms · NW Atlantic · Ceratium arcticum · Continuous Plankton Recorder

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