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Study shows six decades of change in UK’s plankton communities - University of Plymouth

New research led by the University and published in Global Change Biology assesses the human and climate-related impacts on plankton

The UK’s plankton population – microscopic algae and animals which support the entire marine food web – has undergone sweeping changes in the past six decades, according to new research published in Global Change Biology.

Involving leading marine scientists from across the UK, led by the University of Plymouth, the research for the first time combines the findings of UK offshore surveys such as the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) and UK inshore long-term time-series.

It then maps those observations against recorded changes in sea surface temperature, to demonstrate the effect of our changing climate on these highly sensitive marine communities.

The study’s authors say their findings provide further evidence that increasing direct human pressures on the marine environment – coupled with climate-driven changes – are perturbing marine ecosystems globally.

They also say it is crucial to helping understand broader changes across UK waters, since any shifts in plankton communities have the potential for negative consequences for the marine ecosystem and the services it provides.

Since plankton are the very base of the marine food web, changes in the plankton are likely to result in changes to commercial fish stocks, sea birds, and even the ocean’s ability to provide the oxygen we breathe.

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