The Plankton 2015 report from CSIRO and based on data from the Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS) looks at why plankton are important to the health of our oceans and Australia’s future prosperity. To download the full report visit the IMOS data tools page: http://imos.org.au/imosdatatools.html
According to the report’s lead author CSIRO’s Dr Anthony Richardson, how much plankton there is, and where it is, determines how many fish, marine mammals and turtles are in the sea.
“Plankton are responsible for about half the oxygen we breathe, and are critical to the marine food web.
“They can also impact human life, from toxic algal blooms caused by microscopic zooplankton species through to venomous jellyfish such as Irukandji that are also a species of plankton,” Dr Richardson said.
The report compiles information from plankton studies and data sets from across Australia to provide a snapshot on the climate, state of global fisheries and marine ecosystem health and biodiversity.
Through the IMOS Australian Continuous Plankton Recorder (AusCPR) survey and the National Reference Stations (NRS) program, researchers are collecting and counting thousands of plankton samples, as a window into the health of our oceans.
“We are collecting important plankton data that shows the changing nature of our oceans,” said IMOS Director Tim Moltmann.
“Researchers have found that on the east coast of Australia, plankton have moved southward by 300 km over the past 30 years,” he said.
Changes to plankton abundance and distribution are likely to have significant repercussions up the food chain.
In some environments, such as off the coast of Tasmania’s Maria Island, there has been a shift from cold-water to warm-water plankton species.
“Warm-water plankton is smaller and some fish, seabirds and marine mammals just don’t like the taste,” said Dr Richardson.
“More carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is leading to more acidic oceans,” he said, adding that although there is evidence of thinning shells in sea butterflies in northern Australia over the past 30 years, there is no general decrease in abundance of shelled animals and plants.
The report also delivers some good news on jellyfish.
“Whilst in various parts of the world that have been heavily polluted or fished there have been massive jellyfish blooms, there is no evidence that jellyfish abundance has increased in Australian waters,” said Dr Richardson.
Information from Plankton2015 will be used in the next Australian State of the Environment report to highlight how our marine estate is changing.
As more data is collected, our knowledge on the baseline conditions across Australia will improve.
Direct link to Plankton 2015 (PDF 8KB)