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Transregional linkages in the north-eastern Atlantic- an 'end-to-end' analysis of pelagic ecosystems

Fox, C. and Harris, R. and Sundby, S. and Achterberg, E. and Allen, J.I. and Allen, J. and Baker, A. and Brussard, P.D. and Buckley, P. and Cooke, E.J. and Dye, S.R. and Edwards, M. and Fernand, L. and Kershaw, P. and Metcalfe, J. and Osterhus, S. and Potter, T. and Sakshaug, E. and Speirs, D.C. and Stenevik, E. and St. John, M. and Thingstad, F. and Wilson, B. and , North-eastern Atlantic Systems Cluster at CEFAS, Lowestoft, U.K. (2009) Transregional linkages in the north-eastern Atlantic- an 'end-to-end' analysis of pelagic ecosystems. In: Oceanography and Marine Biology: an Annual Review. CRC Press, Boca Raton, Florida, pp. 1-76. ISBN 1420094211

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Abstract

This review examines interregional linkages and gives an overview perspective on marine ecosystem functioning in the north-eastern Atlantic. It is based on three of the 'systems' considered by the European Network of Excellence for Ocean Ecosystems Analysis (EUR-OC EANS was established in 2004 under the European Framework VI funding programme to promote integration of marine ecological research within Europe), the Arctic and Nordic Seas, North Atlantic shelf seas and North Atlantic. The three systems share common open boundaries and the transport of water, heat, nutrients and particulates across these boundaries modifies local processes. Consistent with the EUR-OC EANS concept of 'end-to-end' analyses of marine food webs, the review takes an integrated approach linking ocean physics, lower trophic levels and working up the food web to top predators such as marine mammals. We begin with an overview of the regions focusing on the major physical patterns and their implications for the microbial community, phytoplankton, zooplankton, fish and top predators. Human-induced links between the regional systems are then considered and finally possible changes in the regional linkages over the next century are discussed. Because of the scale of potential impacts of climate change, this issue is considered in a separate section. The review demonstrates that the functioning of the ecosystems in each of the regions cannot be considered in isolation and the role of the atmosphere and ocean currents in linking the North Atlantic Ocean, North Atlantic shelf seas and the Arctic and Nordic Seas must be taken into account. Studying the North Atlantic and associated shelf seas as an integrated 'basin-scale' system will be a key challenge for the early twenty-first century. This requires a multinational approach that should lead to improved ecosystem-based approaches to conservation of natural resources, the maintenance of biodiversity, and a better understanding of the key role of the north-eastern Atlantic in the global carbon cycle.