The world-famous Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) Survey, based at the Marine Biological Association, celebrates the 88th anniversary of the first CPR tow this week and is pleased to announce the biggest release of open data in its history.

The datasets, along with an open, online portal for visualisation and download of the data allows everyone to view and access this unique source of data on marine plankton, the foundation of life in the sea.

This initial release of data contains taxa that have been consistently recorded since 1958. During this time period, other taxa have been added and/or counting methods changed (such as the inclusion of coccolithophores, speciation of Dinophysis), as new scientific questions have arisen. To facilitate ease of use, these taxa are currently not included in the data release, but are available upon request.

A continuous plankton recorder. The CPR Survey currently covers 8,000 nautical miles each month.

By contributing the CPR dataset to regional and global initiatives such as EMODnet and OBIS, the MBA is helping to provide the best available evidence base to support effective governance of the world’s oceans.  Empowering the research and policy sectors with quality-assured, open datasets will help drive the blue economy, ensuring sustainable use of the global marine environment.

Dan Lear, Head of Data, Information & Technology at the MBA said “Open data are the driving force of science and innovation.  By releasing high quality, scientifically robust data the MBA and CPR Survey are directly contributing to the efforts to sustainably manage our interactions with the ocean.  These data have been collected and analysed for over 60 years and give a unique insight into the patterns and changes we have witnessed in this period.”

David Johns, Head of the Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey at the MBA said “This is an exciting development for the Survey, whilst we have always encouraged open data access and collaboration, we felt it was time to modernise and streamline this process. We are actively encouraging users to collaborate with our team, so we can work together and produce the best quality science – the longevity and consistency of the CPR dataset is unique, and as such presents an unparalleled potential to investigate changes in our oceans”

Operating since 1931, the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) survey is recognised as the longest sustained and geographically most extensive marine biological survey in the world. The dataset comprises a uniquely large record of marine biodiversity covering ~800 taxa over multi-decadal periods. In terms of our scientific understanding of natural variability and human-induced change on our oceans, the CPR survey is of global importance and it is used by scientists, policy makers and environmental managers across the world. The data is used to examine strategically important science pillars such as climate change, human health, fisheries, biodiversity, pathogens, invasive species, ocean acidification and natural capital. The results have included the globally first documented studies of large-scale ecological regime shifts, and of biogeographic, phenological and trans-arctic migrations in the marine environment in response to climate change.

Access the survey Data Catalogue here:

The full CPR Survey data in IPT format is at DOI:

Sep 18, 2019 By guba