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BATS Zooplankton CensusBATS Zooplankton Census

Diel, Seasonal, and Interannual Patterns in Zooplankton and Micronekton Species Composition in the Subtropical Atlantic

This study of plankton diversity at the Bernuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS) site is part of an initiative to create an online atlas of marine diversity, the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS), a database of global marine animal and plant distributions.

Planktonic communities comprise a wide diversity of organisms that form the basis of marine food webs. The zooplankton and micronekton provide a direct link between primary producers and higher trophic levels such as fishes, seabirds, and some marine mammals. Zooplankton contain representatives of nearly every animal group. There are two important reasons for a census of the diversity and abundance of the plankton. The first is the need to describe and understand patterns of distribution and abundance of organisms and to predict the impact of environmental change on those patterns. Second, to better understand their qualitative and quantitative role in the pelagic food web and the cycling of elements in the sea.

We are developing a multi-species inventory of zooplankton and micronekton at the Bermuda Atlantic Time-Series Study (BATS) station, a 13-year, ongoing oceanographic time series situated in the western North Atlantic subtropical gyre, or Sargasso Sea.

The program will provide high-resolution species data that covers diel, seasonal, annual, and decadal time scales. Detailed accompanying environmental "metadata" data already available from BATS cruises (e.g., water column temperature, oxygen, nutrients, and plant pigment concentration) will be merged with the species data set. A critical research objective is to provide data on species distribution and abundance to OBIS and to serve as a starting place in which data collected in the future can be placed.

The project is a collaboration between the Virgnina Institute of Marine Science, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Russian Academy of Sciences' Zoological Institute, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, and the Bermuda Biological Station for Research, Inc.

This census will provide a high quality time series of zooplankton and micronekton species composition enabling us to dissect the difference between natural variability and real "change" in the diversity of plankton communities. This will be critical for testing and validation of ecosystem models, and for understanding the effects of long term climate change on ecosystems.

A more detailed account is given in the proposal (BATSProposal.doc).


The Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) is a part of the global research program, the Census of Marine Life (CoML). Funding for our OBIS project has been provided by the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP) through awards from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Biological Oceanography Program, NSF OCE-0004256.

For more information, please see:

Steinberg, D.K., C.A. Carlson, N.B. Bates, R.J. Johnson, A.F. Michales, and A.H. Knap. 2001. Overview of the US JGOFS Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS): a decade-scale look at ocean biology and biogeochemistry. Deep-Sea Research II. 48(8-9): 1405-1447. (Local version Steinberg_et_al_2001.pdf).

Madin, L.P., E.F. Horgan, and D.K. Steinberg. 2001. Zooplankton at the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS) station: diel, seasonal and interannual variation in biomass, 1994-1998. Deep-Sea Research II. 48(8-9): 2063-2082. (Local version Madin_et_al_2001.pdf).

Steinberg, D.K., C.A. Carlson, N.R. Bates, S.A. Goldthwait, L.P. Madin, and A.F. Michaels. 2000. Zooplankton vertical migration and the active transport of dissolved organic and inorganic carbon in the Sargasso Sea. Deep-Sea Research I. 47: 137-158. (Local version Steinberg_et_al_2000.pdf).

A more comprehensive list of Sargasso Sea zooplankton references is available (BATSZooplanktonRefs.doc).

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