Recent macroscale research has shown that the increase in regional sea temperatures has triggered a major re-organisation in calanoid copepod species composition and biodiversity over the whole North Atlantic basin. During the last 40 years there has been a northerly movement of warmer water plankton by 10° latitude in the north-east Atlantic and a similar retreat of colder water plankton to the north. This geographical movement is much more pronounced than any documented terrestrial study, presumably due to advective processes (see biogeographic case-study below). Over the last decade there has been a progressive increase in the presence of warm-water/sub-tropical species into the more temperate areas of the north-east Atlantic.
In terms of marine phenological
changes and climate, the plankton of the North
Sea has been extensively studied using Continuous
Plankton Recorder data. Using 66 taxa it was found that the plankton community was
responding to changes in SST by adjusting their seasonality
(in some cases a shift in seasonal cycles of over
six weeks was detected), but more importantly the
response to climate warming varied between different functional
groups and trophic levels, leading to mismatch.
It is thought that temperate marine
environments are particularly vulnerable to phenological
changes caused by climatic warming because the recruitment
success of higher trophic levels is highly dependent
on synchronisation with pulsed planktonic production.
The rapid changes in plankton communities
observed over the last few decades in the North Atlantic,
related to regional climate
changes, have enormous consequences for other trophic
levels and biogeochemical processes. See phenology
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