Progressive changes in the Western English Channel foster a reorganization in the plankton food web

Growing evidence has shown a profound modification of plankton communities of the North East Atlantic and adjacent seas over the past decades. This drastic change has been attributed to a modification of the environmental conditions that regulate the dynamics and the spatial distribution of ectothermic species in the ocean. Recently, several studies have highlighted modifications of the regional climate station L4 (50 degrees 15.00'N, 4 degrees 13.02'W) in the Western English Channel. We here focus on the modification of the plankton community by studying the long-term, annual and seasonal changes of five zooplankton groups and eight copepod genera. We detail the main composition and the phenology of the plankton communities during four climatic periods identified at the L4 station: 1988-1994, 1995-2000, 2001-2007 and 2008-2012. Our results show that long-term environmental changes underlined by Molinero et al. (2013) drive a profound restructuration of the plankton community modifying the phenology and the dominance of key planktonic groups including fish larvae. Consequently, the slow but deep modifications detected in the plankton community highlight a climate driven ecosystem shift in the Western English Channel. Crown Copyright (C) 2015 Published by Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.