Environmental drivers of a decline in a coastal zooplankton community

Wells, Seòna R; Bresnan, Eileen; Cook, Kathryn ORCID:; Eerkes-Medrano, Dafne; Machairopoulou, Margarita; Mayor, Daniel J ORCID:; Rabe, Berit; Wright, Peter J; Ji, Rubao. 2021 Environmental drivers of a decline in a coastal zooplankton community. ICES Journal of Marine Science, 79 (3). 844-854.

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Major changes in North Atlantic zooplankton communities in recent decades have been linked to climate change but the roles of environmental drivers are often complex. High temporal resolution data is required to disentangle the natural seasonal drivers from additional sources of variability in highly heterogeneous marine systems. Here, physical and plankton abundance data spanning 2003–2017 from a weekly long-term monitoring site on the west coast of Scotland were used to investigate the cause of an increasing decline to approximately -80± 5% in annual average total zooplankton abundance from 2011 to 2017. Generalized additive mixed models (GAMMs), with an autoregressive correlation structure, were used to examine seasonal and inter-annual trends in zooplankton abundance and their relationship with environmental variables. Substantial declines were detected across all dominant taxa, with ∼ 30–70% of the declines in abundance explained by a concurrent negative trend in salinity, alongside the seasonal cycle, with the additional significance of food availability found for some taxa. Temperature was found to drive seasonal variation but not the long-term trends in the zooplankton community. The reduction in salinity had the largest effect on several important taxa. Salinity changes could partly be explained by locally higher freshwater run-off driven by precipitation as well as potential links to changes in offshore water masses. The results highlight that changes in salinity, caused by either freshwater input (expected from climate predictions) or fresher offshore water masses, may adversely impact coastal zooplankton communities and the predators that depend on them.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
ISSN: 1054-3139
Date made live: 24 Oct 2022 14:04 +0 (UTC)

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