Continuous plankton recorder (CPR)


Access to database

We encourage use of the CPR data and access will be provided for genuine research purposes. If you believe that the data would benefit your research, or you can contribute to the analyses of the data, please contact the administrators of the data at [Please put "SO-CPR Survey" in the Title or Subject heading of the message or it will be blocked] We require a brief statement on the proposed use of the data, method of analysis and likely output of results, e.g. publications and where. This is to ensure that the request for access is bona fide, and that there are no conflicts with any existing analyses, especially with current student projects. In some cases, we may team you with another analyst if we consider this will improve the results. A password to the data set will be sent once access is granted. We may also elect to send an extract of the data.


The Southern Ocean Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey (SO-CPR) is an international program supported by the Scientific Commitee on Antarctic Research (SCAR) Action Group on CPR Research through the Standing Scientific Group on Life Sciences of SCAR. Current member nations are Australia, Japan, Germany and New Zealand. Other nations are encouraged to participate. The Survey is a major contributor to the Census of Antarctic Marine Life and SCAR¿s Marine Biodiversity Information Network SCAR-MarBIN.

The survey currently involves Australia, Japan, Germany, and New Zealand with other countries developing their involvement. The overall purposes of the Survey are to map the spatial and temporal patterns of biodiversity of the plankton through the region, and then to use the sensitivity of plankton to environmental change as early warning indicators of the health of Southern Ocean. The Survey will also serve as a reference on the general status of the Southern Ocean for comparison with other monitoring programs.

Understanding patterns of variation in biological systems, both natural and those caused climate change, is an integral pattern of research in Antarctica. Plankton are the foundation of the Antarctic marine ecosystem and are thus the logical place to start such research. The CPR has proved to be the most cost-effective means of rapidly and repeatedly surveying plankton in large ocean systems with minimal or no cost in ship time. The CPR provides contiguous maps of zooplankton over large areas ideal for biogeographic mapping, especially in relation to frontal zones, and providing spatial-temporal variation in zooplankton community structure.

The SO-CPR Survey is an independent established program, but is part of a larger consortium CPR surveys in the North Sea, North Atlantic and North Pacific, operating through the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS), that is providing an important survey tool on the health of ocean systems as well as supporting specific research such as the Census of Marine Life (CoML) and Census of Antarctic Marine Life (CAML).

More details on the development and purpose of the SO-CPR Survey see: Plankton survey uses old technology to monitor the future/Australian, Japanese scientists collaborate or Hosie, G.W., Fukuchi, M. and Kawaguchi, S. (2003) Development of the Southern Ocean Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey. Progress in Oceanography 58 (2-4), 263-283.

Current Status

The survey currently covers more than half of the Southern Ocean. Most of the tows have been conducted between 60°E to 160°E and south of the Sub-Antarctic Front (SAF) to the Antarctic coast. New routes have been established south of Africa, extending the survey west to the zero meridian, and between New Zealand and Ross Sea extending the survey further east. Other tows have been conducted across Drake Passage replicating Sir Alister Hardy's original 1927 CPR tows. At present, the database comprises approximately 14,000 records of 5 n mile resolution, representing more than 200 taxa. Approximately 2,500-3,000 new records are added each year. By the start of International Polar Year, and the Census of Antarctic Marine Life, we predict the database will comprise at least 21,000 records, so the SO-CPR Survey has already made a considerable contribution to CAML and the general knowledge of zooplankton biodiversity in the Southern Ocean.

Map of known CPR tows

Information Links

External Links

Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS)

National Institute Polar Research, Japan

Tokyo University of Marine Science and Technology

SCAR Marine Biodiversity Information Network

Alfred Wegener Institute for Polar and Marine Research

National Institute of Water & Atmospheric Research Limited (NIWA). New Zealand

CPR Action Group

SCAR Action Group on the Southern Ocean Continuous Plankton Recorder Survey (SO-CPR Survey)

Action group members (Core)

Dr Graham Hosie (Co-chair), Australian Antarctic Division

Prof. Mitsuo Fukuchi (Co-chair), National Institute of Polar Research, Japan

Prof. Dr. Uli Bathmann, Alfred Wegener Insitute, Germany

Dr Don Robertson, National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Ltd, New Zealand

Terms of Reference

  1. Map the biodiversity and distribution of plankton, including euphausiid (krill) life stages, in the Southern Ocean.
  2. Use the sensitivity of plankton to environmental change as early warning indicators of the health of Southern Ocean, by studying spatial-temporal variation in plankton patterns.
  3. Serve as reference on the general status of the Southern Ocean for other monitoring programs.
  4. Develop and maintain the SO-CPR Database and to improve access for users.
  5. Expand and enhance the SO-CPR Survey to include more ships and repeat transects around Antarctica.
  6. Investigate converting the Action Group to an Expert Group on CPR research.

Public Summary

The sensitivity of plankton to changes in the environment makes them useful early warning indicators of the health of ocean systems. CPRs have been towed behind ships for 75 years in the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean to monitor the condition of those systems. These have been important in identifying major changes in the marine ecosystem which have ecological and economic impacts. The CPR is now being used in Antarctic waters, since 1991, to map biodiversity of plankton in the region as well as monitor its health through studies of regional, seasonal, interannual and longterm variability in plankton patterns. Changes in plankton abundances and patterns are expected to have a significant effect on the rest of the ecosystem. The SO-CPR Survey maintains a database on plankton abundance and distribution which is available for use by bona fide users.