September 15, 2014

Measuring Plankton to Learn About Marine Health

Tags: Long Term Monitoring Program

Understanding variability in plankton helps to explain the amount of energy available to a wide array of marine life, including harvested resources with important economic and cultural value. Plankton are small plants and animals adrift within the water column. They serve as the base of the food web; some of the largest marine mammals feed only on plankton. Plankton are also an important food source for fish stocks. 

The Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) is a mechanical device towed behind large commercial ships to capture the small plants and animals adrift within the water column. Analyzing the samples collected by the CPR, researchers can determine the quantity and type of tiny drifting plant and animal organisms and their variability across the sampled area. Tune in at 3:37 of this video for an animated demonstration of how the CPR works; watch the entire video to learn more about the important role plankton plays as an indicator of marine health.

With NPRB long-term monitoring funding, the CPR survey will continue sampling along two paths through the North Pacific that have been studied since 2000. Other partners on the CPR consortium include the Canadian Department of Fisheries and Oceans, the Exon Valdez Oil Spill Trustee Council, the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science, and the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES). Learn more about the details of the project on the NPRB project browser