Abstract

Long-term regional changes in phytoplankton biomass in the Northeast Atlantic and North Sea are investigated using data from the Continuous Plankton Recorder survey. During the last decade there have been large changes in the long-term variation in phytoplankton biomass in the Northeast Atlantic and North Sea. Most regions, particularly in the North Sea, have shown a considerable increase in phytoplankton biomass while the opposite pattern was seen in the northern oceanic region of the Northeast Atlantic. These different spatial responses show similar patterns of change to the decadal variability in sea surface temperature influenced by the North Atlantic Oscillation index. Two rare oceanographic events and their relationship to the interannual changes in phytoplankton biomass are discussed. The results highlight the importance of maintaining long-term biological monitoring programmes to assess the biological responses to slow oceanic/atmospheric processes and to rare or episodic physical events.