Journal Article

Identifying global synchronies in marine zooplankton populations: issues and opportunities

R.Ian Perry, Harold P Batchelder, David L Mackas, Sanae Chiba, Edward Durbin, Wulf Greve and Hans M Verheye

in ICES Journal of Marine Science

Published on behalf of ICES/CIEM

Volume 61, issue 4, pages 445-456
Published in print January 2004 | ISSN: 1054-3139
Published online January 2004 | e-ISSN: 1095-9289 | DOI:
Identifying global synchronies in marine zooplankton populations: issues and opportunities

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  • Environmental Science
  • Marine and Estuarine Biology


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Analyses of the influences of climate variability on local zooplankton populations and those within ocean basins are relatively recent (past 5–10 years). What is lacking are comparisons of zooplankton population variability among the world's oceans, in contrast to such global comparisons of fish populations. This article examines the key questions, capabilities, and impediments for global comparisons of zooplankton populations using long-term (>10 year) data sets. The key question is whether global synchronies in zooplankton populations exist. If yes, then (i) to what extent are they driven by “bottom-up” (productivity) or “top-down” (predation) forcing; (ii) are they initiated by persistent forcing or by episodic events whose effects propagate through the system with different time-lags; and (iii) what proportion of the biological variance is caused directly by physical forcing and what proportion might be caused by non-linear instabilities in the biological dynamics (e.g. through trophodynamic links)? The capabilities are improving quickly that will enable global comparisons of zooplankton populations. Several long-term sampling programmes and data sets exist in many ocean basins, and the data are becoming more available. In addition, there has been a major philosophical change recently that now recognizes the value of continuing long-term zooplankton observation programmes. Understanding of life-history characteristics and the ecosystem roles of zooplankton are also improving. A first and critical step in exploring possible synchrony among zooplankton from geographically diverse regions is to recognize the limitations of the various data sets. There exist several impediments that must be surmounted before global comparisons of zooplankton populations can be realized. Methodological issues concerned with the diverse spatial and temporal scales of “monitored” planktonic populations are one example. Other problems include data access issues, structural constraints regarding funding of international comparisons, and lack of understanding by decision-makers of the value of zooplankton as indicators of ecosystem change. We provide recommendations for alleviating some of these impediments, and suggest a need for an easily understood example of global synchrony in zooplankton populations and the relation of those signals to large-scale climate drivers.

Keywords: biomass; climate; comparative approach; data access; global synchrony; methodology; phenology; predation; zooplankton

Journal Article.  6484 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Environmental Science ; Marine and Estuarine Biology

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