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Keywords:

  • atmospheric forcing;
  • fisheries;
  • hydrographic variability;
  • inflow modelling;
  • oceanic inflow;
  • slope current;
  • zooplankton

Abstract

Oceanic inflow is estimated to contribute more than 90% of the nutrient input into the North Sea. Variability in the volume, chemical properties, biological content and source of the inflowing water is thus likely to have a considerable effect on North Sea ecosystems. Changes seen in the plankton, and in particular Calanus finmarchicus and Calanus helgolandicus, over the last 40 years as measured by the Continuous Plankton Recorder survey, allow clear periods to be identified that appear to be associated with variability in inflow. Monthly estimates of inflow and outflow across a section between Orkney and Utsira in Norway as well as netflow (sum of Baltic outflow, runoff and Channel inflow), have been derived from runs of the NORWECOM model for two integrated depth intervals: surface to 150 m and >150 m. A comparison is made between the physical model output and plankton results for the period 1958–99. Distinct plankton periods that appear to reflect changing inflow events are discussed in relation to hydrometeorological and earlier plankton studies over approximately the last 100 years.