1. Plankton ecology contributes significantly to ecological theory building, because plankton organisms are relatively easy to manipulate and have short generation times and a relatively small set of traits making them an ideal experimental model system for addressing both general ecological questions as well more system-specific questions.
2. Since the environment is changing at an unprecedented rate, there is an ongoing demand for predictions from plankton ecology on the consequences of global change.
3. In 2010, a colloquium was held on three subjects: chaos versus predictability in plankton dynamics, global patterns versus regional differences in plankton dynamics and climate-induced changes in plankton dynamics.
4. Papers in this Special Issue propose a new model of plankton dynamics under climate change in different climate zones; offer increased attention to the role of winters in resetting population dynamics; discuss the effects of climate change on ecological stoichiometry and efficiency of trophic transfer; describe the relative and interacting effects of changes in temperature and hydrology on plankton; and analyse the effects of climate change on host–parasite dynamics.
5. Important research gaps include increased monitoring of understudied climatic zones, adaptation of plankton organisms to altered environmental conditions, interactions of climate change with legacy nutrients, interactions with other anthropogenic pressures and interactions with the infochemical network.