Plankton science for supporting the implementation of marine ecosystem-based management and conservation

Title: Plankton science for supporting the implementation of marine ecosystem-based management and conservation 

Funder and duration: NERC, Defra, EMFF 2013-2020

Location: Northeast Atlantic

University of Plymouth leads: Dr Abigail McQuatters-Gollop

Project website: https://planktonpolicy.org/

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) takes an Ecosystem Approach to managing Europe’s seas with the overarching objective of achieving ‘Good Environmental Status’ (GES). Under the MSFD, indicators of biodiversity state are used to assess the state of marine ecosystems and determine the main drivers of change affecting European marine ecosystems at the regional scale. If the ecosystem state does not reflect GES a programme of management measures, designed to manage direct human pressures such as fishing, coastal development, or nutrient loading, must then be implemented.

As the base of the marine pelagic ecosystem, indicators of plankton community structure must be used to assess the ‘pelagic habitat’ component of European marine ecosystems, and are representative of broader pelagic ecosystem status. A suite of three plankton indicators recently developed for the MSFD captures aspects of pelagic diversity (OSPAR, 2017c), functioning (OSPAR, 2017a) and productivity (OSPAR, 2017b) in the Northeast Atlantic. Uniquely, these indicators are being co-developed with policy makers, resulting in policy buy-in. The indicators, however, require further scientific development around understanding drivers of indicator change, both prevailing conditions and those caused by direct human pressures, so that policy decisions can be made about effective management measure implementation.

The UK and OSPAR Pelagic Habitats Expert Groups are chaired by Abigail McQuatters-Gollop and are comprised of national and international scientific experts and contracting party policy delegations. The Pelagic Habitats Expert Groups are tasked with steering scientific research to meet policy needs, including MSFD indicator development and assessment and reporting of pelagic biodiversity status to the European Commission. The policy-relevant science is conducted through a variety of EU, national, and international research projects.

The three MSFD plankton indicators which summarize the state of pelagic habitats at the OSPAR level. The suite of productivity indicator, functional group indicator, and diversity indicator allows for a holistic assessment of change in pelagic habitats. (Figure adapted from (McQuatters-Gollop et al., 2017)).

Recent publications

Bedford, J., Johns, D.G. and McQuatters-Gollop, A., (2020). Implications of taxon-level variation in climate change response for interpreting plankton lifeform biodiversity indicators. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 77: 3006-3015.

Bedford, J., Ostle, C., Johns, D.G., Atkinson, A., Best, M., Bresnan, E., Machairopoulou, M., Graves, C.A., Devlin, M., Milligan, A., Pitois, S., Mellor, A., Tett, P. and McQuatters-Gollop, A., (2020). Lifeform indicators reveal large-scale shifts in plankton across the North-West European shelf. Global Change Biology, 26: 3482-3497.

Bedford, J., Ostle, C., Johns, D.G., Budria, A. and McQuatters-Gollop, A., (2020). The influence of temporal scale selection on pelagic habitat biodiversity indicators. Ecological Indicators, 114: 106311.

Batten, S.D., Abu-Alhaija, R., Chiba, S., Edwards, M., Graham, G., Jyothibabu, R., Kitchener, J.A., Koubbi, P., McQuatters-Gollop, A., Muxagata, E., Ostle, C., Richardson, A.J., Robinson, K.V., Takahashi, K.T., Verheye, H.M. and Wilson, W., (2019). A Global Plankton Diversity Monitoring Program. Frontiers in Marine Science, 6.

McQuatters-Gollop, A., Mitchell, I., vina-Herbon, C., Bedford, J., Addison, P.F.E., Lynam, C.P., Geetha, P.N., Vermeulen, E., Smit, K., Bayley, D.T.I., Morris-Webb, E., Niner, H. and Otto, S.A., (2019). From science to evidence – how biodiversity indicators can be used for effective marine conservation policy and management. Frontiers in Marine Science, 6.

Pittman, S., Curry, K., Bedford, J., Fletcher, S., McQuatters-Gollop, A., Lowther, J., Attrill, M.J., Rees, S., Shellock, R., Moseley, K., Gall, S., Rodwell, L. and Williams, M., (2019). Marine Parks for Coastal Cities: A concept for enhanced community well-being, prosperity and sustainable city living. Marine Policy, 103:160-171.

Rombouts, I., Simon, N., Aubert, A., Cariou, T., Feunteun, E., Guérin, L., Hoebeke, M., McQuatters-Gollop, A., Rigaut-Jalabert, F. and Artigas, L.F., (2019). Changes in marine phytoplankton diversity: Assessment under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Ecological Indicators, 102: 265-277.

McQuatters-Gollop, A., Atkinson, A., Aubert, A., Bedford, J., Best, M., Bresnan, E., Cook, K., Devlin, M., Gowen, R., Johns, D.G., Machairopoulou, M., Mellor, A., Ostle, C., Scherer, C. and Tett, P., (2019). Plankton lifeforms as a biodiversity indicator for regional-scale assessment of pelagic habitats for policy. Ecological Indicators, 101: 913-925

Bedford, J., Johns, D.G. and McQuatters-Gollop, A., (2019). A century of change in North Sea plankton communities explored through integrating historical datasets. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 76:104-112.

Bedford, J., Johns, D.G. and McQuatters-Gollop, A., (In press). A century of change in North Sea plankton communities explored through integrating historical datasets. ICES Journal of Marine Science, in press.

Siddons, B., Glegg, G. and McQuatters-Gollop, A., (2018). Inter-regional coherence: can Northeast Atlantic pelagic indicators be applied to the Arctic? Marine Policy, 96:53-64.

Bedford, J., Johns, D., Greenstreet, S., and McQuatters-Gollop, A. (2018). Plankton as prevailing conditions: a surveillance role for plankton indicators within the Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Marine Policy, 89:109-115.

Capuzzo, E., Lynam, C.P., Stephens, D., Barry, J., Forster, R.M., Greenwood, N., McQuatters-Gollop, A., Silva, T., van Leeuwen, S. M., and Engelhard, G.H., (2017). New data reveal a decline in primary production in the North Sea with implications for zooplankton and fisheries. Global Change Biology, doi: 10.1111/gcb.13916.

McQuatters-Gollop, A., Johns, David G., Bresnan, E., Skinner, J., Rombouts, I., Stern, R.F., Aubert, A., Johansen, M., Bedford, J., and Knights, A., (2017). From microscope to management: the critical value of plankton taxonomy to marine policy and biodiversity conservation. Marine Policy, 83: 1-10.

McQuatters-Gollop, A., Johns, D.G., Bresnan, E., Skinner, J., Rombouts, I., Stern, R.F., Aubert, A., Johansen, M., Bedford, J. and Knights, A., (2017). From microscope to management: the critical value of plankton taxonomy to marine policy and biodiversity conservation. Marine Policy, 83: 1-10.

OSPAR, 2017a. PH1: Changes in phytoplankton and zooplankton communities. OSPAR Intermediate Assessment 2017. Available at: https://oap.ospar.org/en/ospar-assessments/intermediate-assessment-2017

OSPAR, 2017b. PH2: Changes in Phytoplankton Biomass and Zooplankton Abundance. OSPAR Intermediate Assessment 2017. Available at: https://oap.ospar.org/en/ospar-assessments/intermediate-assessment-2017

OSPAR, 2017c. PH3: Pilot assessment of Changes in Plankton Diversity. OSPAR Intermediate Assessment 2017. Available at: https://oap.ospar.org/en/ospar-assessments/intermediate-assessment-2017.

McQuatters-Gollop, A., Edwards, M., Helaouët, P., Johns, D.G., Owens, N.J.P., Raitsos, D.E., Schroeder, D., Skinner, J., and Stern, R.F., (2015). The Continuous Plankton Recorder survey: how can long-term phytoplankton datasets deliver Good Environmental Status? Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science, 162:88-97.

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