Title: Plankton science for supporting the implementation of marine ecosystem-based management and conservation 
Funder and duration: NERC Knowledge Exchange Fellowship (2013-present), EMFF ICEGRAPH (2019) and NEA PANACEA (2021-2023), Defra mNCEA (2023-2025)
Location: Northeast Atlantic
University of Plymouth leads:  Dr Abigail McQuatters-Gollop 
Project website:
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)).

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)).

Public policy evidence summary

Preserving the planet’s lungs and securing the oxygen supply

The role of plankton in establishing broader pelagic ecosystem status
Human pressures are changing marine ecosystems. Information on the causes and impact of these pressures should be used to guide policy and conservation decisions.
Getty plankton

Recent publications

Firth, L.B., Farnworth, M., Fraser, K.P.P. and McQuatters-Gollop, A., (2023). Make a difference: Choose artificial reefs over natural reefs to compensate for the environmental impacts of dive tourism. Science of the Total Environment, 901: 165488. 
Graves, C.A., Best, M., Atkinson, A., Bear, B., Bresnan, E., Holland, M., Johns, D.G., Machairopoulou, M., McQuatters-Gollop, A., Mellor, A., Ostle, C., Paxman, K., Pitois, S., Tett, P. and Devlin, M., (2023). At what scale should we assess the health of pelagic habitats? Trade-offs between small-scale manageable pressures and the need for regional upscaling. Ecological Indicators, 154: 110571. 
Holland, M.M., Louchart, A., Artigas, L.F., Ostle, C., Atkinson, A., Rombouts, I., Graves, C.A., Devlin, M., Heyden, B., Machairopoulou, M., Bresnan, E., Schilder, J., Jakobsen, H.H., Lloyd-Hartley, H., Tett, P., Best, M., Goberville, E. and McQuatters-Gollop, A., (2023). Major declines in NE Atlantic plankton contrast with more stable populations in the rapidly warming North Sea. Science of the Total Environment, 898: 165505. 
Magliozzi, C., Palma, M., Druon, J.-N., Palialexis, A., McQuatters-Gollop, A., Ioanna, V., Rafael, G.-Q., Elena, G., Birgit, H., Laura, B. and Felipe, A.L., (2023). Status of pelagic habitats within the EU-Marine Strategy Framework Directive: Proposals for improving consistency and representativeness of the assessment. Marine Policy, 148: 105467. 
Burns, F, Mordue, S, al Fulaij, N, Boersch-Supan, PH, Boswell, J, Boyd, RJ, Bradfer-Lawrence, T, de Ornellas, P, de Palma, A, de Zylva, P, Dennis, EB, Foster, S, Gilbert, G, Halliwell, L, Hawkins, K, Haysom, KA, Holland, MM, Hughes, J, Jackson, AC, Mancini, F, Mathews, F, McQuatters-Gollop, A, Noble, DG, O’Brien, D, Pescott, OL, Purvis, A, Simkin, J, Smith, A, Stanbury, AJ, Villemot, J, Walker, KJ, Walton, P, Webb, TJ, Williams, J, Wilson, R, Gregory, RD, 2023. State of Nature 2023, the State of Nature partnership, Available at: 
McQuatters-Gollop, A., Holland, M., Louchart, A. and Artigas, L.F., (2023). Pelagic Habitat Thematic Assessment. The 2023 Quality Status Report for the Northeast Atlantic. OSPAR, London.
Holland, M., Louchart, A., Artigas, L.F. and McQuatters-Gollop, A., (2023). PH1/FW5 Changes in phytoplankton and zooplankton communities. The 2023 Quality Status Report for the Northeast Atlantic. OSPAR, London. 
Louchart, A., Artigas, L.F., Holland, M. and McQuatters-Gollop, A., (2023). PH2 Change in phytoplankton biomass and zooplankton abundance. The 2023 Quality Status Report for the Northeast Atlantic. OSPAR, London.
Louchart, A., Artigas, L.F., Holland, M. and McQuatters-Gollop, A., (2023). PH3 Changes in Plankton Diversity. The 2023 Quality Status Report for the Northeast Atlantic. OSPAR, London.
Giering, S.L.C., Culverhouse, P.F., Johns, D.G., McQuatters-Gollop, A. and Pitois, S.G., (2022). Are plankton nets a thing of the past? An assessment of in situ imaging of zooplankton for large-scale ecosystem assessment and policy decision-making. Frontiers in Marine Science, 9. 
McQuatters-Gollop, A., Guérin, L., Arroyo, N.L., Aubert, A., Artigas, L.F., Bedford, J., Corcoran, E., Dierschke, V., Elliott, S.A.M., Geelhoed, S.C.V., Gilles, A., González-Irusta, J.M., Haelters, J., Johansen, M., Le Loc’h, F., Lynam, C.P., Niquil, N., Meakins, B., Mitchell, I., Padegimas, B., Pesch, R., Preciado, I., Rombouts, I., Safi, G., Schmitt, P., Schückel, U., Serrano, A., Stebbing, P., De la Torriente, A., Vina-Herbon, C., 2022. Assessing the state of marine biodiversity in the Northeast Atlantic. Ecological Indicators 141, 109148.
Smit, K.P., Van Niekerk, L., Harris, L.R., McQuatters-Gollop, A., Shannon, L.J., Sink, K.J., (2022). A Roadmap to Advance Marine and Coastal Monitoring, Biodiversity Assessment, and International Reporting: A Developing Nation Perspective. Frontiers in Marine Science 9. 10.3389/fmars.2022.886373 
Karcher, D.B., Cvitanovic, C., van Putten, I.E., Colvin, R.M., Armitage, D., Aswani, S., Ballesteros, M., Ban, N.C., Barragán-Paladines, M.J., Bednarek, A., Bell, J.D., Brooks, C.M., Daw, T.M., de la Cruz-Modino, R., Francis, T.B., Fulton, E.A., Hobday, A.J., Holcer, D., Hudson, C., Jennerjahn, T.C., Kinney, A., Knol-Kauffman, M., Löf, M.F., Lopes, P.F.M., Mackelworth, P.C., McQuatters-Gollop, A., Muhl, E.-K., Neihapi, P., Pascual-Fernández, J.J., Posner, S.M., Runhaar, H., Sainsbury, K., Sander, G., Steenbergen, D.J., Tuda, P.M., Whiteman, E., Zhang, J., (2022). Lessons from bright-spots for advancing knowledge exchange at the interface of marine science and policy. Journal of Environmental Management 314, 114994. 
Chee, S.Y., Firth, L.B., Then, A.Y.-H., Yee, J.C., Mujahid, A., Affendi, Y.A., Amir, A.A., Lau, C.M., Ooi, J.L.S., Quek, Y.A., Tan, C.E., Yap, T.K., Yeap, C.A., McQuatters-Gollop, A., (2021). Enhancing Uptake of Nature-Based Solutions for Informing Coastal Sustainable Development Policy and Planning: A Malaysia Case Study. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution 9. 10.3389/fevo.2021.708507 
Ostle, C., Paxman, K., Graves, C.A., Arnold, M., Artigas, L.F., Atkinson, A., Aubert, A., Baptie, M., Bear, B., Bedford, J., Best, M., Bresnan, E., Brittain, R., Broughton, D., Budria, A., Cook, K., Devlin, M., Graham, G., Halliday, N., Hélaouët, P., Johansen, M., Johns, D.G., Lear, D., Machairopoulou, M., McKinney, A., Mellor, A., Milligan, A., Pitois, S., Rombouts, I., Scherer, C., Tett, P., Widdicombe, C., McQuatters-Gollop, A., (2021). The Plankton Lifeform Extraction Tool: a digital tool to increase the discoverability and usability of plankton time-series data. Earth System Science Data 13, 5617-5642. 10.5194/essd-13-5617-2021 
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., (2019). Marine Ecological Field Methods. Salvanes, A. G. V., Devine, J., Jensen, K. H., Hestetun, J. T., Sjotun, K., & Glenner, H, Wiley and Sons, 2018, 218 pp. Fish and Fisheries, 20: 390-390.
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. 
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. 
Addison, P.F.E., Collins, D.J., Trebilco, R., Howe, S., Bax, N., Hedge, P., Jones, G., Miloslavich, P., Roelfsema, C., Sams, M., Stuart-Smith, R.D., Scanes, P., von Baumgarten, P., and McQuatters-Gollop, A., (2018). A new wave of marine evidence-based management: emerging challenges and solutions to transform monitoring, evaluating, and reporting. ICES Journal of Marine Science, doi: 10.1093/icesjms/fsx216 
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., (2018). New data reveal a decline in primary production in the North Sea with implications for zooplankton and fisheries. Global Change Biology, 24: e352-e364.
Batten, S.D., Raitsos-Exarchopoulos, D., Danielson, S., Hopcroft, R., Coyle, K. and McQuatters-Gollop, A., (2018). Interannual variability in lower trophic levels on the Alaskan Shelf. Deep Sea Research II, 147:58-68 doi:10.1016/j.dsr2.2017.04.023.