Climate Action

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| Editors: Walter Leal Filho, Anabela Marisa Azul, Luciana Brandli, Pinar Gökcin Özuyar, Tony Wall

Biodiversity and Biogeography of Zooplankton: Implications of Climate Change

  • Fernando MorgadoEmail author
  • Luis R. Vieira
Living reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-71063-1_119-1

Definitions

Zooplankton is derived from the Greek zoon (ζῴον), meaning “animal,” and planktos (πλαγκτός), meaning “wanderer” or “drifter.” Zooplankton are drifting ecologically important organisms, feeding on bacterioplankton, phytoplankton, other zooplankton, detritus, and nektonic organisms (Morgado et al. 2014). Therefore, the biodiversity and structure of zooplankton community over time are determinant for supporting aquatic food webs (Vieira et al. 2015).

Introduction

The oceans have a great socioeconomic value through food production, nutrient recycling, and regulation of gas exchange at the atmosphere-ocean interface. There is evidence that living marine resources in individual ocean regions undergo strong changes in stock size and productivity at decadal intervals (Doney et al. 2012). However, the dynamics of marine ecosystem, due to a great diversity of natural and anthropogenic factors and their interactions, are difficult to understand and predict (Vieira et al. 2015). There is an increasing scientific and public focus on how climate variability and climate trends affect marine ecosystems. Climate change may have repercussions throughout the biosphere and with effects on marine biodiversity and current human living patterns (IPCC 2014). Climate change affects the survival, growth, reproduction, and distribution of individuals within a species, and their impacts can be translated to the level of populations, communities, or ecosystems (IPCC 2014; Vieira et al. 2015). Climate change is now affecting every country on every continent, disrupting national economies, and affecting severely worldwide ecosystems. Weather patterns are changing, sea levels are rising, weather events are becoming more extreme, and greenhouse gas emissions are now at their highest levels in history. The EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change supports actions to make the EU more climate-resilient, defining the 2030 climate and energy policy framework that sets several key targets for 2030, including the Goal 13: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts (https://ec.europa.eu/sustainable-development/goal13_en).

Global warming may have major repercussions for marine ecosystems, since temperature influences water column stability, nutrient availability, and primary production and thus the composition, abundance, size, and trophic efficiency of zooplankton (Richardson 2008). The main factors influencing climate change are temperature, salinity, wind, oxygen, pH, density, and structure of the water column (Doney et al. 2012). Climate-related changes in the physical and chemical oceanic environment have been considered the major drivers of significant fluctuations in zooplankton communities. Given that these ecosystems also play a key role in the global carbon cycle, the impact of climate change may affect the structure and functioning of marine ecosystems, such as changes in species distribution and phenology and extreme disturbances in habitats (IPCC 2014). The impacts of climate change may have induced large changes in planktonic ecosystems in recent decades as a consequence of interactions between climate change and plankton communities, especially in systematic changes in the structure of plankton communities, ranging from abundance, distribution, and phenology (Benedetti et al. 2019) and indicators of changes in primary and secondary production (IPCC 2014; Kwiatkowski et al. 2018).

Zooplankton in the Trophic Dynamics and Structure of the Marine Ecosystem

The variations of the zooplanktonic organisms in the water column can take place at several time (daily, monthly, seasonal, interannual) and space scales that strongly determine the performance of organisms and their interactions with the biotic and abiotic environment (Morgado 1997; Vieira et al. 2015). The largest source of zooplankton variability can be attributed to the contagious horizontal distribution of zooplanktons in the water column which comprises a population or patch of organisms in a constant flow state, which also move to the surface or to the bottom (Ré et al. 2005). The knowledge of structural and functional aspects of zooplankton communities are key inputs for establishing interfaces between their ecology and dynamics, in order to understand the processes by which zooplankton organisms interact with the environmental and biological components of marine ecosystems and coastal zones. Research can include structural studies, such as zooplankton functions in global functioning of marine and estuarine ecosystems, production in the oceans and estuaries (Morgado et al. 2003a, b; Ré et al. 2005; Morgado et al. 2007), variability of recruitment of fish species (largely determined by their planktonic phase) (Ré et al. 2005; Morgado et al. 2007), and also as indicator of the movement of water bodies contributing with information essential to the context of global climate change and pollution (Vieira et al. 2003a, b, 2015, Ré et al. 2005). In addition, knowledge about biological factors (food availability, predation and competition, growth rates, mortality, behavior, histology and histochemistry of ecophysiological processes (Pastorinho et al. 2005; Morgado et al. 2013, 2015)) are also central to modelling the reproductive potential of zooplankton by physicochemical factors and extrinsic biological factors developed in important species. These studies inserted into a sustainable and sustainable development policy appear as an interface with other areas of knowledge and contribute to the creation of new interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary fields, allowing the conservation and management of medium and long term of living marine resources and coastal zones.

The Global Importance of Marine Plankton as an Indicator of Climate Change

Zooplankton communities play a key role in the functioning of marine ecosystems, biogeochemical cycles, and transport of energy from primary producers to consumers of higher trophic levels (Richardson 2008). Since species of zooplankton float freely and respond easily to ocean currents (and temperature changes), the changes in their distribution can be dramatic. Unlike other marine species, zooplankton species exhibit more pronounced interannual cycles, that is, population size is little influenced by the persistence of organisms from previous years, because most species are short lived. Zooplankton is thus more sensitive to change than the environmental variables themselves, since nonlinear responses of biological communities may increase subtle environmental disturbances (Morgado 1997; Richardson 2008; Vieira et al. 2015). The emission of atmospheric CO2 from anthropogenic activities causes changes in the pH and concentration of CO2 dissolved in the ocean, causing both positive and negative effects (such as the use of CO2 during photosynthesis of phytoplankton for the formation of organic matter) (Richardson 2008).

The temporal series of plankton abundance and distribution are critical to pinpoint changes and to study climate change (Ré et al. 2005; Morgado et al. 2014). The global importance of marine zooplankton as an indicator of climate change can be summarized as follows: (1) it is composed of animals that support different temperatures, so their physiological processes (such as ingestion, respiration, and reproductive development) are highly sensitive to changes in temperature (Richardson 2008); (2) generally, zooplankton is not commercially exploited (with the exception of krill and some jellyfish) unlike other marine groups (such as fish) (Richardson 2008); (3) the distribution of zooplankton accurately reflects ocean currents and temperature, since they are freely floating organisms (Richardson 2008; Morgado et al. 2014); and (4) almost all marine animals have a planktonic stage in their life cycles, since currents provide ideal mechanisms for dispersion over long distances (Morgado 1997; Richardson 2008; Vieira et al. 2015).

Global Biodiversity and Biogeography of Zooplankton

Our current understanding of global patterns of zooplankton’s biodiversity and biogeography results from decades of work by biological oceanographers, marine ecologists, and taxonomists. But despite more than a century of sampling the oceans, comprehensive understanding of many unresolved questions still remains very limited. Due to the fragility, rarity, small size, and/or systematic complexity of many taxa, for many zooplankton groups, there are long-standing and unresolved questions of species identification, systematic relationships, genetic diversity and structure, and biogeography. It is also evident that with the recent techniques of molecular biology, many of the morphologically well-defined species can constitute distinct populations. In addition, marine zooplankton is still a good indicator of the health status of the oceans, although its role as a mediator of carbon, nitrogen, and other important elements of biogeochemical cycles may be altered by climate change caused by the anthropogenic effect (Vieira et al. 2015; Benedetti et al. 2019). Plankton abundance varies on a time scale that can be measured in terms of minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years, decades, and even millennia, while spatial variation can be measured in millimeters, meters, kilometers, or even ocean basins (Morgado et al. 2014). It is important to note that the appropriate choice of a time/space scale should be considered in the analysis and that the different scales are interconnected in a hierarchical way, through both physical processes (global and regional patterns of climate change) and biological processes (small changes in turbulence that can affect predator-prey contact rates (Vieira et al. 2015; Brun et al. 2019). The distribution patterns of zooplankton are regulated by factors such as depth, trophic state of the zone, and temperature of water bodies. The depth separates the neritic plankton from the oceanic plankton. Here, there is a difference between the two types, since the neritic plankton inhabits zones of the continental shelf until about 200 m of depth is constituted mainly by meroplankton larvae and eggs of benthic species. Oceanic plankton is characterized essentially by the absence of meroplankton and the presence of vertically migrating organisms such as copepods and euphausiids which follow daily cycles or even seasonal cycles such as Calanus at high latitudes. Vertical migrations are not confined to populations of organisms in the surface zone; many organisms living in the deep ocean regularly change deep into various stages of their lives (Morgado et al. 2014). The epipelagic zones between 200 and 1000 m are the main domains of zooplankton. Below 1000 m, in the bathypelagic zone, the concentration of species decreases logarithmically depending on the depth. Diversity is generally regulated by the temperature regime and the evolutionary regime of oceanic areas (Ré et al. 2005; Morgado et al. 2014). The greatest diversity is found in tropical and subtropical zones and the smaller diversity with polar zones as well as brackish waters. It is noteworthy that, due to the continual exchange of oceanic water bodies through ocean currents, many species have a global distribution pattern within their climatic boundaries. Several major types of variations in time can be recognized: (1) a single peak in the polar regions and in the North Pacific (although they are distinct, since in the polar regions phytoplankton production is linked, while in the North Pacific, it is not dependent); (2) two major abundance peaks in the North Atlantic (one in spring and another in autumn); and (3) in tropical regions, generally there isn’t a significant variation (Boltovskoy 1988).

Zooplankton time series of 10 years or more are now available for many widely separated ocean regions. The longest time series are the Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) surveys of the eastern North Atlantic (80+ years); the California Cooperative Fisheries Investigations (CalCOFI) surveys of the south-central California Current system (50+ years); Canadian and Japanese sampling in the subarctic NE Pacific (50+ years summer season, continuous 1958–1981); Japanese, Russian, and Korean collections from the western margin of the Pacific and the Asian marginal seas (40–50+ years); sampling by IMARPE (Peru), IFOP (Chile), and other agencies in the Peru-Chile upwelling region (~40 years); US and Canadian monitoring programs in the coastal NE Atlantic (~40 years); and several ongoing European sampling programs in the North Sea and Mediterranean (20–30 years). In several additional ocean regions (notably off South Africa and in the Arabian Sea), it may be possible to assemble very long time series by combining information from sequences of shorter observation programs. The CPR is the world’s largest multi-decade plankton research and monitoring program. Started in 1931, by Sir Alister Hardy, it has evolved to provide the scientific community with the best tool for the plankton status in the North Sea and the North Atlantic. Using several commercial routes along the North Atlantic allows, and in case where navigation restrictions were not imposed, a regular sampling of each route was performed. However, some unforeseen events were documented, including temporal failures, caused by occurrences of malfunctions in the equipment of monitoring as well as in the boats. The CPR also has the restriction that there is no sample data with less than 1 nautical mile of the back, since the crews remove and place the equipment only when the water depth is large. The methodology of identification and classification has been altered due to several factors, such as the evolution of optical microscopy, changes in the counting and quantification system, and revolution brought by the introduction of new molecular biology methods.

Compared with the one million reported species of insects and more than one million benthic aquatic organisms, the diversity of zooplankton, with about 7000 species, is considerably small; the only attribute of this comparison is the relative magnitude of local diversity for global diversity (Hirai et al. 2017). Copepods are the largest group in zooplankton species at the global level, being extremely common and their species extremely abundant. Copepods represent the majority of zooplankton organisms recorded in zooplankton samples worldwide, due not only to being very frequent in plankton as well as being very robust remaining intact during CPR (Richardson 2006). On the contrary, most gelatinous organisms and other delicate taxa are irremediably damaged, making it impossible to quantify them. A close examination of the CPR records shows that some organisms are more often recorded as gifts than counted numerically. Two of the implications of changes in the types of quantification methodology, which are sometimes introduced by necessity, have repercussions on the addition or discontinuity of the taxa. This is due to the new requirements dictated by the investigation. Although most taxa have been counted since 1946, there are some changes in counting procedures over time to the present day, with implications on the time series consistency for zooplankton since 1948 (Richardson 2006; Romagnan et al. 2016). It is recommended that CPR data not be taken as absolute measures of abundance but rather as semiquantitative that reflect interannual and seasonal patterns (Romagnan et al. 2016). Large zooplankton organisms are overestimated as they are able to bypass the monitoring devices through hydrostatic pressure-sensed sensing. Despite this sensory detection, the seasonal cycles estimated by the CPR data are strong enough to be consistent and may even respond to the seasonal peaks caused by recent temperature increases in freshwater bodies. From a perspective of global analysis of zooplankton’s biogeography and biogeography, Table 1 includes the results of the most representative long time series (with ≥10 years of consecutive sampling) of zooplankton observation programs.
Table 1

Representative long time series (with ≥10 years of consecutive sampling) of zooplankton observation programs. (Adapted and updated from Perry et al. 2004)

Program

Start and end years

Location

Source

North Pacific

CalCOFI

1949–continuing (quarterly)

California

www.mlrg.ucsd.edu/calcofi.html

Station PAPA

1956–continuing (3 times per year)

North Pacific, 50°N, 145°W

Mackas et al. 1998

Newport

Intermittent since 1969, continuous since 1996 (5 times per year)

Offshore transect at 44o39.1’N (Oregon, USA)

Peterson and Keister 2003

Vancouver Island Shelf

1985–continuing (3–5 times per year)

Southwest shelf of Vancouver Island

Mackas et al. 2001

Odate plankton time series

1951–continuing (monthly)

Western North Pacific (Kuroshio, Oyashio, and transition region east of Japan)

Tadokoro 2001

Hokkaido University, Oshoro-Maru time series

1953–2001 (annual)

Western and central subarctic North Pacific, and Bering Sea (mostly along 180°E)

Kobari and Ikeda 2001

Japan Meteorological Agency (JMA)

1967, 1972–continuing (seasonal)

Several transects in western North Pacific (all around Japanese waters)

Tadokoro 2001

National Research Institute of Fisheries Science (Japan), fish egg and larvae survey

1971–continuing (annual)

Western subtropical North Pacific (including Kuroshio region)

Nakata et al. 2001

Hokkaido National Institute of Fisheries, A-line monitoring

1987–continuing (5–8 times per year)

Western subarctic North Pacific (Oyashio region)

Kasai et al. 2001

National Fisheries Research and Development Institute (Korea), oceanographic survey

1965–continuing (6 times per year)

Korean waters

Kang et al. 2002

North Atlantic

Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR)

1931–continuing (monthly)

North Atlantic

www.sahfos.org

Helgoland Roads

1974–continuing (daily to weekly)

Southern North Sea (54.19oN 7.9oE)

Greve et al. 1996

Dove Marine Laboratory

1968–continuing

Central-west North Sea

Evans and Edwards 1993

Stazione Zoologica Anton Dohrn; Station MC

1984–continuing (weekly to bi-weekly sampling)

Gulf of Naples (40°48.5’N, 14°15′E)

Mazzochi and Ribera d’Alcala 1995

Station “C,” western Mediterranean

1985–1995 (weekly)

Gulf of Tigullio, Ligurian Sea, western Mediterranean

Licandro and Ibanez 2000

Plymouth Marine Lab, Station L4

1988–continuing (weekly)

Western English Channel

www.pml.ac.uk/L4

Icelandic Monitoring Programme

1961–continuing (annual)

Transects radiating from Iceland

Ássthorson and Gislason 1995

Emerald Basin

1984–continuing (twice per year)

Scotian Shelf, NW Atlantic

DFO 2000

MARMAP and follow-up program

1977–continuing (quarterly)

NE United States continental shelf

Sherman 1980

Station “2”

1972–1997; 2002–continuing (weekly)

Lower Narragansett Bay, RI, USA

Deason and Smayda 1982

South Atlantic

Cape Routine Area Monitoring Programme, expanded in 1961 to Southern Routine Area Monitoring Programme

1951–1961 (monthly)

1961–1967 (monthly)

Western Cape coast of South Africa (32–34°S; 16°30′-18°15′ E)

Southwestern Cape coast of South Africa (32–38° S; 15°30′-22° E)

Verheye 2000

Pelagic Fish Stock Assessment surveys

1983–continuing (3 times per year)

Most of South Africa’s west and south coasts (28°30’ S-27° E)

Verheye 2000

Walvis Bay Routine Area Monitoring Programme

1957–1965 (monthly)

Namibian coast, vicinity of Walvis Bay (21–24° S; 12°30′-14°30′ E)

Unterruberbacher 1964

SWAPELS Programme

1972–1989 (monthly)

Namibian coast (17°30′-27° S; 10°30′-15° E)

Verheye 2000

Elephant Island

1977–continuing

Elephant Island region of the Antarctic Peninsula

Siegel et al. 1998

South Pacific

IMARPE zooplankton sampling

1964–continuing (seasonal)

Peru coast and continental shelf

Carrasco and Lozano 1989

Antofagasta zooplankton sampling

1991–2003

Northern Chile coast

Escribano and Hidalgo 2000

IFOP zooplankton and ichthyoplankton surveys

1985–continuing (seasonal)

Northern Chile shelf

www.IFOP.cl

Briefly, the main representative groups and species of zooplankton organisms are:

North Atlantic: Calanoid copepods

Coastal biomes and areas of influence of the Atlantic West winds: Adult Pseudocalannus; Centropages typicus; Calanus helgolandicus; Candacia armata

Subarctic Atlantic biome: Euchaeta norvegica; Calanus finmarchicus

Subarctic Atlantic biome without the influence of the Irminger Current: Euchaeta glacialis; Pseudochirella spp.

South and neritic oceanic regions: Nannocalanus minor; Acartia longiremis

Southern Ocean regions and big banks: Mecynocera clausi; Centropages bradyi

Neritic regions: Temora longicornis; Centropages hamatus

South Ocean regions: Euchaeta acuta; Clausocalanus spp.

Great Banks and Newfoundland: Calanus glacialis; Metridia longa

Gulf region and central oceanic region: Pleuromamma pisek

Bay of Biscay and regions of the South European platform: Calanoides carinatus; Euchaeta hebes

South central oceanic regions: Scolecithrix bradyi

Region of extension of the Gulf Stream: Euchaeta marina; Euchaeta pubera

In the subtropical South Atlantic

Continental shelf of Brazil: Copepods from the order Calanoida

Continental Shelf of Namibia: Copepods from the order Cyclopoida

In the South Atlantic (south and west): Copepods – Pseudodiaptomus hessei

Indian Ocean: Copepods – Calanoides carinatus

North East Pacific Ocean

Boreal Platform (Central Oregon to Bering Sea): Calanus marshallae; Pseudocalanus mimus; Acartia longiremis

South: Paracalanus parvus; Mesocalanus tenuicornis

Subarctic ocean: Neocalanus plumchrus; Neocalanus cristatus

Antarctic Ocean: Thysanoessa macrura

The Portuguese Marine and Costal Zooplankton Context

In Portugal, the first study on plankton dates back to 1880 which was carried out by Paul Langerhans in the coastal waters of Madeira and studied the Chaetognatha and Appendicularia. More than 400 articles were included in these studies in the marine, estuarine, lagoon, river, lagoon, and reservoir environments (Santos and Garrido 2000), with the exception of the 1960s and 1970s. IPIMAR (Fisheries Research Institute) is responsible for most of the oceanic campaigns for plankton studies. According to the U-AMB Oceanography and Plankton Group (IPIMAR) database, in the framework of the International Year of Biodiversity (2010), Copepods are the most abundant group, representing 90% of the total biomass (Table 2).
Table 2

Relation of the very frequent and frequent zooplankton species found on the Portuguese mainland coasts. Species marked with ∗ refer to eggs and larvae. In relation to the distribution, the zone marked with refers to the West Coast, north of Lisbon. (Adapted from the IPIMAR website, U-AMB Oceanography and Plankton Group (IPIMAR) in the framework of the International Year of Biodiversity (2010))

Subphylum

Family

Species

Distribution

Seasonality

Frequency

Crustacea

Acartiidae

Acartia clause

Across the coast

n/d

Very

Crustacea

Acartiidae

Acartia danae

Across the coast

n/d

Very

Crustacea

Acartiidae

Acartia grani

Across the coast

n/d

Very

Crustacea

Acartiidae

Acartia longiremis

Across the coast

n/d

Very

Crustacea

Portunidae

Polybius henslowii

Across the coast

Spring/Summer

Very

Crustacea

Portunidae

Liocarcinus spp.

Across the coast

Spring/Summer

 

Urochordata

Oikopleuridae

Oikopleura sp.

Across the coast

Spring/Summer

Very

Crustacea

Euphausiidae

Meganyctiphanes norvegica

Across the coast

Spring/Summer

Very

Actinopterygii

Clupeidae

Sardina pilchardus∗

Across the coast

Autumn /Spring

Very

Crustacea

Cirripedia

Cirripedes

Across the coast

Spring

Very

Actinopterygii

Engraulidae

Engraulis encrasicolus∗

Across the coast

Autumn /Spring

Very

Actinopterygii

Carangidae

Trachurus trachurus∗

Across the coast

Winter/Spring

Very

Crustacea

Euphausiidae

Nyctiphanes couchii

Across the coast

Spring/Summer

Frequent

Crustacea

Euphausiidae

Nematoscelis megalops

Across the coast

Spring/Summer

Frequent

Crustacea

Euphausiidae

Euphausia krohnii

Across the coast

Spring/Summer

Frequent

Medusozoa

Campanulariidae

Obelia spp.

Across the coast

Summer

Frequent

For the Azores Archipelago, the information is still scarce (Muzavor (1981) and Sobrinho-Gonçalves (2001) (Table 3).
Table 3

Main species of zooplankton from Azores Archipelago (according to Muzavor 1981)

Species

Distribution

Seasonality

Frequency

Temora longicornis

Not uniform

March /April

Very

Acartia clausi

Not uniform

March /April

Very

Calanus helgolandicus

Not uniform

March /April

Very

Corycaeus sp.

Not uniform

March /April

Very

Oithona sp.

Not uniform

March /April

Very

In a study carried out in the offshore area of Faial Island during the spawning period of a considerable number of commercial fish species, it analyzed the biomass peak of zooplankton and the abundance of fish larvae, which elicits a temporal asynchrony between their annual production cycles (Sobrinho-Gonçalves and Isibro 2001; Table 4).
Table 4

List of larval species of zooplankton from the offshore area of Faial Island (according to Sobrinho-Gonçalves). ∗ continuous or spawning species

Species

Distribution

Seasonality

Frequency

Helicolenus dactylopterus

Offshore area

February/March

Very

Macroramphosus scolopax

Offshore area

February/March

Very

Phycis phycis

Offshore area

February/March

Very

Lepidopus caudatus

Offshore area

February/March

Very

Serranus cabrilla

Offshore area

May/June

Very

Synodus saurus

Offshore area

May/June

Very

Ceratoscopelus maderensis

Offshore area

May/June

Very

Callionymus reticulatus

Offshore area

May/June

Very

Cyclothone spp.

Offshore area

Effective

Diogenichthys atlanticus

Offshore area

Effective

Lampanyctus pusillus

Offshore area

Effective

Myctophum punctatum

Offshore area

Effective

The results of other studies carried out in the Portuguese coastal zones show that the permanent zooplankton (holoplankton) is mainly dominated by nauplii and adults of Copepoda, Siphonophora, Chaetognatha, and Appendiculata. On the other hand, the temporary zooplankton (meroplankton) comprises numerous larval forms of benthic organisms. Three peaks of abundance are generally described: spring (April), summer (July), and autumn (October). The most important species are Paracalanus parvus, Pseudocalanus elongatus, Clausocalanus spp., Temora longicornis, Calanipeda aquaedulcis, Acartia clausi, Acartia bifilosa, Acartia spp., Oithona nana, Oithona similis, Cyclopina gracilis, Oncaea media, Euterpina acutifrons, and Tachidius discipes (Morgado 1991; Morgado et al. 2003a, b, 2006a, b, 2007, 2014; Vieira et al. 2002). From the point of view of geographic distribution, the dominant species are those mentioned for subtropical or temperate zones; they occur with a wide distribution along the western basin of the Mediterranean and the Adriatic and the Atlantic coast of the United States of America and the North Atlantic. This composition makes it possible to describe three types of oceanographic influences: the Atlantic contingent comprises steno or euryhaline marine organisms, which occur in the outermost areas and only sporadically in the estuaries, and whose presence is associated with masses of oceanic water. The Neritic contingent presents a wide distribution, formed by marine euryhaline organisms, that penetrates the estuaries where they find favorable conditions to the development of their life cycle and where they can occur with high density, presenting different longitudinal distributions according to the respective saline preference. The Estuarine contingent comprises truly estuarine, steno, or oligohaline organisms, occurring inland or upstream of the estuaries, seasonally or throughout the year (Morgado 1991; Morgado et al. 2003a, b, 2006a, b, 2007, 2014; Azeiteiro and Morgado 1996; Vieira et al. 2015). There are clear evidences of exchanges between the estuarine systems and the neritic waters of the Portuguese continental shelf (Azeiteiro et al. 2005; Pastorinho et al. 2005; Vieira et al. 2002, 2003a, b, 2015; Morgado et al. 2013, 2015). The vertical segregation of organisms is associated with the circulation regime and the physicochemical characteristics of water, currents, tidal cycles, and the lunar period (Morgado et al. 2003a, b; Leandro et al. 2007).

Effects of Climate Change on Zooplankton: Distribution, Phenology, Abundance, and Structure of Communities

Zooplankton responses to global warming impacts are observed in species distribution, variation in phenology, and changes in community abundance and structure, with implications throughout the food chain (Brun et al. 2019). Changes in the distribution of zooplankton in response to global warming are among the largest and fastest among organisms affected by climate change (Richardson 2008; Brun et al. 2019). Biogeographic changes have been recorded for copepod populations in the North Atlantic where hot water communities have moved more than 1100 km toward the poles during the last 50 years, with a retraction of communities of cold water in response to the heating of water bodies, with dramatic impacts on the North Sea trophic chain (Villarino et al. 2015). Cold-water copepod communities exhibit high biomass and are dominated by relatively large-sized species, especially Calanus finmarchicus, which has been replaced in the North by Calanus helgolandicus (a species that exhibits lower biomass and smaller sizes, dominant in communities of copepods of temperate water), due to the heating of the waters. These two species have contrasting seasonal cycles: C. finmarchicus reaches its peak abundance in spring, while C. helgolandicus reaches in autumn (Richardson 2008). This change has implications for the trophic chain, especially for one of the most abundant species of fish in the North Sea, Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua), since this species spawns in the spring, thus requiring a larvae requirement of a diet of large copepods (Richardson 2008).

Phenological changes (changes in the calendar of periodic events, such as reproduction and migration) are a consequence of climate change (Richardson 2008; Ohlberger et al. 2014). These changes may arise through microevolutionary processes or represent the phenotypic plasticity that affects the behavior of species. Within the same food chain, species may differ in the magnitude of their responses to climate change, and phenological changes have the potential to cause temporal disparity between species (predator-prey) (Ohlberger et al. 2014). Strong intrinsic density regulation (e.g., due to competition) can moderate population growth against phenological lag. This suggests that the demographic structure of a population, which determines the type and strength of intraspecific interactions, measures how changes in phenology and trophic interactions translate into changes in the abundance of a population. The truncation of population structure (age-size), usually caused by exploitation or natural mortality, can alter a population’s response to phenological changes associated with climate change (Ohlberger et al. 2014). Changes in abundance are more difficult to attribute to global warming than changes in distribution or phenology, although they may have greater environmental implications (Richardson 2008; Brun et al. 2019).

Plankton food chains are controlled by bottom-up producers along spatiotemporal scales, rather than being controlled by top-down predators. Global warming may have effects on stratification and abundance of plankton and may have specific consequences for different regions (Richardson 2008). Most of the evidence of global warming on zooplankton is from the Northern Hemisphere, but there have been dramatic changes in other waters and sites, such as in the Antarctic Ocean, the decline in krill biomass (Euphausia superba), with the warmer waters providing a more favorable habitat for salps. As the water temperature has increased, the extent of sea ice in winter and its duration have decreased, which very likely hindered the survival of krill larvae due to decreased abundance of food, with consequences for the ecosystems and food web (Richardson 2008). This decline in population abundance of krill can be detrimental to several populations (e.g., populations of whales, fish, and seals (Richardson 2008). Relationships between zooplankton composition and abundance and integrative climate indices provide a perspective on how climate change can affect oceans in the future (Benedetti et al. 2019). Marine ecosystems are exposed to a wide range of anthropogenic impacts, more closely related to fisheries and climate change. In areas where there is more intensive fishing, dramatic changes in plankton abundance, composition, and phenology have been documented (Villarino et al. 2015). These were strongly related to climate change and, depending on the structure and function of the ecosystem, can significantly affect higher trophic levels (Brun et al. 2019). Understanding top-down and bottom-up effects is extremely important in order to predict impacts on marine biodiversity; the former implies control through predation, including fisheries, while the bottom-up implies the abundance of zooplankton and thus the availability of food.

The research of marine zooplankton involves a large number of contributions of interdisciplinary experimental studies, related to a great diversity of physical, behavioral, and population dynamic aspects of zooplankton. The research confirms that climate change will have strong impacts on plankton but highlights the difficulty in understanding how the marine ecosystem responds to a future warming climate, given to range of relevant processes operating at different scales. In general, it is important to realize the importance of studying zooplankton at different scales for understanding the processes by which organisms interact with the environmental and biological components of the marine ecosystem and the role of zooplankton as a biological indicator for climate change, for forms of pollution and ecological risk analysis, and for the establishment of links with technological areas for the resolution of biological issues. It has been shown the potential of zooplankton studies for the conservation and management of the living resources of marine and coastal areas. These works also allowed the development of interfaces with other fields of knowledge, in the creation of new interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary fields.

Future Directions

Climate-related changes in the physical and chemical oceanic environment have been considered the major drivers of significant fluctuations in zooplankton communities. Plankton is influenced by a large number of environmental factors and as a result is not distributed randomly in the oceans and seas. The occupation of a common spatiotemporal area requires a very precise structuring of the community, since ecophysiological and ecological factors, such as food and replacement rates, are often dependent on the size of organisms. Plankton biodiversity is constrained by hydroclimatic parameters such as temperature, bathymetry, and oceanic surface currents or large-scale hydrodynamic features. This entry describes the importance of zooplankton in ocean ecosystems and the attributes that make them good indicators for climate change. It also discusses the biodiversity and main biogeographic patterns of marine plankton, the causes of such patterns, as well as factors that influence spatial and temporal plankton distribution. Zooplankton communities’ responses to global warming and to external anthropogenic and environmental stressors are among the main research items on zooplankton today. Considering the extremely important role of zooplankton in the trophic dynamics and structure of the marine ecosystem, understanding the ecological interactions of the various components of the system and responses to climate variability and change is needed. This emphasizes the need to develop an ecological approach to monitor human impacts and also for a multiscale approach that quantifies some degree of natural variability from a regional scale down to a local scale. Developing a greater capability for monitoring and understanding, these changes will be critical for future management of ocean and coastal resources.

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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Environmental and Marine Studies (CESAM) and Department of BiologyUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal
  2. 2.Institute of Biomedical Sciences of Abel Salazar (ICBAS) and Interdisciplinary Centre of Marine and Environmental Research (CIIMAR)University of PortoPortoPortugal

Section editors and affiliations

  • Luis R. Vieira
    • 1
  1. 1.CIIMAR & ICBASUniversity of PortoPortoPortugal