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The CPR Survey
Dan Lear (SAHFOS) (2019): Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey (CPR Survey). The Marine Biological Association of the UK, CPR Survey. (Dataset).

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Availability: Creative Commons License This dataset is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

The SAHFOS CPR survey is the longest and most geographically extensive marine biological survey in the world. The CPR survey has been in operation in the North Sea and North Atlantic since 1946 and has systematically sampled up to 500 planktonic taxa from the major regions of the North Atlantic at a monthly resolution. This dataset contains also CPR surveys in the Pacific and the South Atlantic. more

The Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) survey has been operating in the North Atlantic and North Sea since 1946 and measures the abundance of approximately 450 phytoplankton and zooplankton taxa (Warner and Hays, 1994). The CPR is a high-speed plankton recorder that is towed behind ‘ships of opportunity’ through the surface layer of the ocean (~10 m depth). Water passes through the recorder, and plankton are filtered by a slow moving silk (mesh size 270 μm). A second layer of silk covers the first and both are reeled into a tank containing 4% formaldehyde. Upon returning to the laboratory, the silk on is unwound and cut into sections corresponding to 10 nautical miles and approximately 3 m3 of filtered sea water. The colour of each section of CPR silk is then evaluated and categorized according to four levels of ‘greenness’ (green, pale green, very pale green and no colour) using a standard colour chart; these numbers are given a numerical value as a measure of the ‘Phytoplankton Colour Index’. This is a semiquantitative measure of phytoplankton biomass; the silk gets its green colour from the chloroplasts of the filtered phytoplankton. Phytoplankton cells are then identified and recorded as either present or absent across 20 microscopic fields spanning each section of silk; CPR phytoplankton abundance is therefore a semiquantitative estimate (i.e. the species is recorded once per field independent of the number of cells in a field). However, the proportion of cells captured by the silk reflects the major changes in abundance, distribution, and community composition of the phytoplankton (Robinson, 1970), and is consistent and comparable over time. Zooplankton analysis then carried out in two stages with small (<2 mm) zooplankton identified and counted on-silk and larger (>2 mm) zooplankton enumerated off-silk. The collection and analysis of CPR samples have been carried out using a consistent methodological approach since 1958, making the CPR survey the longest continuous dataset of its kind in the world (Edwards and Richardson, 2004).

Biology > Ecology - biodiversity, Biology > Plankton > Phytoplankton, Biology > Plankton > Zooplankton
Marine/Coastal, Phytoplankton, Plankton, vessel of opportunity, Zooplankton, A, North Atlantic, ANE, North Sea, EurOBIS calculated BBOX, INE, INW, Calanoida, Ceratium F.Schrank, 1793, Diplostraca, Copepoda, Dinoflagellata, Dinophyceae

Geographical coverage
A, North Atlantic [Marine Regions]
ANE, North Sea [Marine Regions]
EurOBIS calculated BBOX Stations
Bounding Box
Coordinates: MinLong: -179,9688; MinLat: -63,318 - MaxLong: 179,7659; MaxLat: 79,688 [WGS84]
Indo-Pacific North East [Marine Regions]
Indo-Pacific North West [Marine Regions]

Temporal coverage
From 7 January 1946 on [In Progress]

Taxonomic coverage
Calanoida [WoRMS]
Ceratium F.Schrank, 1793 [WoRMS]
Diplostraca [WoRMS]
Copepoda [WoRMS]
Dinoflagellata [WoRMS]
Dinophyceae [WoRMS]


Count (in assayed sample) of biological entity specified elsewhere [BODC]
Development stage of biological entity specified elsewhere [BODC]
Volume of sample from the water body [BODC]

The Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science; The Laboratory, moredata ownerdata managerdata provider
Stevens, Darren
Johns, David
Marine Biological Association of the UK (MBA), moredata managerdata creator
Broughton, Derek
Lear, Daniel

Related datasets
Published in:
EurOBIS: European Ocean Biodiversity Information System, more
(Partly) included in:
Presence/Absence maps of phytoplankton in the Greater Baltic Sea
Spatial interpolation of Calanus finmarchicus and Calanus helgolandicus observations in the North Sea
Other relations:
CPR data for OSPAR PH1 FW5 PH2 PH3 FW2 QSR2023
Day and Night zooplankton abundance maps in the North Atlantic from 1960-2019
Decadal abundance of calanoid copepods within the North Atlantic

Based on this dataset
Richardson, A.J. et al. (2006). Using continuous plankton recorder data. Prog. Oceanogr. 68(1): 27-74
Continuous Plankton Recorder survey team (2004). Continuous Plankton Records: Plankton Atlas of the North Atlantic Ocean 1958-1999. Mar. Ecol. Prog. Ser. (suppl.): 11-75
Batten, S.D. et al. (2003). CPR sampling: the technical background, materials and methods, consistency and comparability. Prog. Oceanogr. 58(2-4): 193-215.
Beaugrand, G.; Brander, K.M.; Lindley, J.A.; Souissi, S.; Reid, P.C. (2003). Plankton effect on cod recruitment in the North Sea. Nature (Lond.) 426(6967): 661-664
Reid, P.C. et al. (2003). The Continuous Plankton Recorder: concepts and history, from Plankton Indicator to undulating recorders. Prog. Oceanogr. 58(2-4): 117-173.
Reid, P.C.; Matthews, J.B.L.; Smith, M.A. (Ed.) (2003). Achievements of the Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey and a vision for its future. Progress in Oceanography, 58(2-4). Elsevier: Amsterdam. 115-358 pp.
Beaugrand, G. et al. (2002). Reorganization of north Atlantic marine copepod biodiversity and climate. Science (Wash.) 296(5573): 1692-1694.
Warner, A.J.; Hays, G. (1994). Sampling by the Continuous Plankton Recorder survey. Prog. Oceanogr. 34: 237-256
Lindley, J.A.; Williams, R.; Hunt, H.G. (1993). Anomalous seasonal cycles of decapod crustacean larvae in an exceptionally warm year. J. Exp. Mar. Biol. Ecol. 172: 47-65
Lindley, J.A. (1987). Continuous plankton records: the geographical distribution and seasonal cycles of decapod crustacean larvae and pelagic post-larvae in the North-Eastern Atlantic Ocean and the North Sea, 1981-3. J. Mar. Biol. Ass. U.K. 67(1): 145-167.
Lindley, J.A. (1977). Continuous Plankton Records: the distribution of the Euphausiacea (Crustacea: Malacostraca) in the North Atlantic and the North Sea, 1966-1967. J. Biogeogr. 4(2): 121-133.
Rees, C.B. (1955). Continuous plankton records: the decapod larvae in the North Sea 1950-51. Bull. Mar. Ecol. 4: 69-80
Rees, C.B. (1952). Continuous plankton records: the decapod larvae in the North Sea 1947-1949. Bull. Mar. Ecol. 3: 157-184

Dataset status: In Progress
Data type: Data
Data origin: Monitoring: field survey
Metadatarecord created: 2004-06-28
Information last updated: 2024-04-11
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