CPR Survey recognised as high priority for sustained ocean observing

CPR Technician Pete Ockenden servicing a CPR unit

A recent report published by the National Oceanography Centre (NOC) has identified the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) Survey as one of the top priorities for sustained ocean observations.

11 sustained in situ observation systems were evaluated through open consultation with the wider scientific community, following a request by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC). Professor Ed Hill CBE from NOC explained the rationale behind this report at the launch of the consultation “It’s important we continue to fund the science and technology that best serve the environmental science community”.

Sustained observations of the ocean are needed to recognise, understand, and manage changes in marine biodiversity, resources and habitats. This is important in addressing issues, particularly those that affect society, such as climate change and loss of biodiversity.

Senior Analyst Marianne Wootton in the CPR Laboratory

The CPR Survey, operated by the Marine Biological Association, has been operating for more than 90 years and has covered over 7 million nautical miles of ocean. The Survey is part of a global network of CPR Surveys, known as the Global Alliance of CPR Surveys. The UK Sustained Scientific Ocean Observation Priorities report highlighted the following 5 key points about the Survey:

  • The strength of the CPR is the coverage it gives through time and space as part of the Global alliance of CPR Survey’s (GACS). Some UK records in the North Atlantic are the longest in the world. The surveys provide most of what we know of basin scale changes in North Atlantic plankton distributions at species level in response to climate change, including regime shifts, and contribute to global and regional-scale state of the ocean assessments.
  • The UK contribution to CPR Survey is unique and the records are of global significance.
  • There is no other way of making equivalent measurements at present which, uniquely, retain the biological samples (captured on silk) and enable reanalysis to address new issues
  • Adding sensors onto CPRs is easy and will enhance the range of variables measured
  • A strength of the CPR Survey is its continuity and consistency of use of a simple technology over decades. Newer technologies should be developed to obtain information about surface plankton, although it is doubtful they will be able to provide the capability equivalent of the CPRs and so parallel running of CPRs and new techniques would be needed for a long time.

David Johns, Director of Research Facilities at the MBA said “Sustained ocean observations are vital for our understanding of long term change, and the UK is renowned for having a dedicated program covering a vast range of variables. This recent report acknowledges their importance, with support from the wider scientific community, and prioritises the CPR Survey , recognising it is of ‘global significance’.”

The full report is available to read here.