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Southern Ocean Continuous Plankton Recorder Database (SO-CPR)

The SCAR Southern Ocean Continuous Plankton Recorder (SO-CPR) Survey was established in 1991 by the Australian Antarctic Division to map the spatial-temporal patterns of plankton biodiversity and use the sensitivity of plankton to environmental change as early warning indicators of the health of the Southern Ocean. It also contributes to or can serve as a reference for other observational/monitoring programmes such as the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS), Southern Ocean Sentinel (SOS), CCAMLR Ecosystem Monitoring Program (C-EMP), and the Integrating Climate and Ecosystem Dynamics (ICED) program.

Antarctic plankton are expected to be particularly sensitive and vulnerable to climate change, both because of changes in ocean temperatures and by changing sea ice patterns. Increased UV levels, ocean acidification, invasive plankton species, pollution and harvesting impacts are also potential major threats. The synergistic effect of these threats working in combination is currently not known. Any change in the plankton are expected to have cascading effects through the rest of the food chain, as well as potentially altering the role of the plankton in the global climate system.

The SCAR Continuous Plankton Recorder Expert Group (EG-CPR) was established to assist the development and expansion of the CPR research in the Southern Ocean and Antarctic waters.

At the 2016 SCAR Delegates Meeting it was approved that the EG-CPR transitions to the SO-CPR Database Expert Group (SO-CPR), to focus on the Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) of the data and to maintain the highest methodological standards in CPR sampling and taxonomic methodology across the SO-CPR Survey laboratories. 

See also the SO-CPR website.

The SCAR Southern Ocean Continuous Plankton Recorder (SO-CPR) Survey was established in 1991 by the Australian Antarctic Division to map the spatial-temporal patterns of plankton biodiversity and use the sensitivity of plankton to environmental change as early warning indicators of the health of the Southern Ocean.

The SCAR Continuous Plankton Recorder Expert Group (EG-CPR) was established to assist the development and expansion of the CPR research in the Southern Ocean and Antarctic waters.

The original terms of reference for the Continuous Plankton Recorder Expert Group (EG-CPR) were:

  1. Map the biodiversity and distribution of plankton, including euphausiid (krill) life stages, in the Southern Ocean.
  2. Use the sensitivity of plankton to environmental change as early warning indicators of the health of Southern Ocean, by studying spatial-temporal variation in plankton patterns.
  3. Serve as reference on the general status of the Southern Ocean for other monitoring programs.
  4. Develop and maintain the SO-CPR Database and to improve access for users.
  5. Expand and enhance the SO-CPR Survey to include more ships and repeat transects around Antarctica.

The EG-CPR has proved invaluable in helping the Southern Ocean CPR Survey becoming a high successful biological survey and monitoring programme with a near circum-Antarctic coverage. In turn it has become an important source of data and information for other SCAR initiatives such as SCAR-MarBIN, the Census of Antarctic Marine Life (CAML) and the Southern Ocean Observing System (SOOS). In turn, SO-CPR and EG-CPR were important foundation members of the Global Alliance of CPR Surveys (GACS) which places the Antarctic CPR data in a global context. During the term of the EG-CPR and its predecessor Action Group some 40 papers have been published in relation to ToR 1, 2 and 3, including the SCAR Biogeographic Atlas of the Southern Ocean. That work still continues, but in recent years the main focus of EG-CPR has been on ToR 4 and 5, particularly in improving access/use of the CPR data, an important SCAR Business Product, and ensuring quality assurance and quality control of that data through training and standardisation workshop. That work needs to continue for the foreseeable future to ensure we are collecting and distributing the best quality plankton data.

The principal product of the SO-CPR survey is the production of a high quality dataset for purposes of mapping plankton biodiversity: monitoring and development of models at seasonal, inter-annual, decadal, and spatially local and global scales; and providing core plankton data for ecosystem models. As of February 2012, data from approximately 30,000 samples at 5 nautical mile resolution for ~230 zooplankton species and krill developmental stages are in the database. A new zooplankton atlas for the Southern Ocean has just been published for the region using CPR data. New modelling methods are now allowing us to predict patterns of individual species or whole assemblages by modelling the relationship between plankton and remotely measured environmental variables. The analyses will assist in the study of environmental effects on plankton, predator-prey relationships, the identification of foraging zones, and assist fisheries and conservation management.

At the 2016 SCAR Delegates Meeting in Kuala Lumpur it was approved to transition the existing EG-CPR to the Southern Ocean Continuous Plankton Recorder Database Expert Group (SO-CPR)

See the CPR website for further information.

Terms of Reference

  1. Continue to develop and maintain the SO-CPR Database and to improve access for users.
  2. To ensure Quality Assurance and Quality Control (QA/QC) of the data through regular training and standardisation workshops.
  3. Encourage other nations, especially developing Antarctic nations, to participate in the workshops and susequently improve spatial and temporal coverage of CPR tows around Antarctica.

Scientific Committee on Antarctic Research
c/o Scott Polar Research Institute
University of Cambridge
Lensfield Road
Cambridge, CB2 1ER, United Kingdom
Tel: +44 1223 336550
info@scar.org