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Continuous Plankton Recorder in Irish waters

Project Outputs

Ireland has obligations under the EU’ Marine Strategy Framework Directive to deliver food web indicators under Descriptor 4. Specifically, the following elements must be met for at least 3 trophic guilds:

1.     The diversity (species composition and their relative abundance) of the trophic guild is not adversely affected due to anthropogenic pressures.

2.     The balance of total abundance between the trophic guilds is not adversely affected due to anthropogenic pressures.

3.     The condition of the habitat type, including its biotic and abiotic structure and its functions (e.g. its typical species composition and their relative abundance, absence of particularly sensitive or fragile species or species providing a key function, size structure of species), is not adversely affected due to anthropogenic pressures.

Of the three required trophic guilds, at least one must be a primary producer, and another must be a secondary producer. The Continuous Plankton Recorder provides a survey of two such trophic guilds (phytoplankton and zooplankton). These are the only available time series for these guilds. Time series of these data exist in Irish waters, but were discontinued some years ago. The purpose of this project is to re-establish one of these series.

CPR Route D (see map) from 450 nautical miles out and usually finishes around the southernmost tip of Ireland. Depending on weather, occasionally the vessel will tow to the north, finishing at the most northerly point of Ireland. The cost is around STG£43k per year which includes 240 samples per year, transportation costs and consumables for the CPR (silks, wires etc.). The data could either be provided on a monthly basis, as it is completed, or as an annual update. We would also provide any help or advice on data usage and interpretation.

These data would populate two OSPAR common indicators; FW5/PH1 OSPAR common food webs indicator (Changes in average trophic level of marine predators and PH2 OSPAR common pelagic habitat indicator (Plankton biomass and/or abundance). The sub-cost of providing the common indicators would be a once –off value of €2,700. OSPAR common indicators are designed to align with the MSFD but have the added value of covering Ireland’s food-web contributions to the 2023 OSPAR Quality Status Report (QSR) for the NE Atlantic 



This project will run for 1 year in 2020 and start of 2021

Project Outputs:
  1. Number of OSPAR Common Indicators provided for Irish waters.
  2. Fulfilment of Ireland’s obligations under EU MSFD D4C1 and D4C2.
Expected Benefit:
  1. Implementation of the MSFD Article 8 (Monitoring) and Article 9 (GES) obligations
  2. Contribute to OSPAR QSR 2023
  3. Better understanding of long term plankton dynamics in Irish waters
Further Information:
Contact Maurice Clarke at
Project Cost - Projected:
Project Status: