Abstract. Plankton form the base of the marine food web and are sensitive indicators of environmental change. Plankton time series are therefore an essential part of monitoring progress towards global biodiversity goals, such as the Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi Targets, and for informing ecosystem-based policy, such as the EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive. Multiple plankton monitoring programmes exist in Europe, but differences in sampling and analysis methods prevent the integration of their data, constraining their utility over large spatio-temporal scales. The Plankton Lifeform Extraction Tool brings together disparate European plankton datasets into a central database from which it extracts abundance time series of plankton functional groups, called “lifeforms”, according to shared biological traits. This tool has been designed to make complex plankton datasets accessible and meaningful for policy, public interest, and scientific discovery. It allows examination of large-scale shifts in lifeform abundance or distribution (for example, holoplankton being partially replaced by meroplankton), providing clues to how the marine environment is changing. The lifeform method enables datasets with different plankton sampling and taxonomic analysis methodologies to be used together to provide insights into the response to multiple stressors and robust policy evidence for decision making. Lifeform time series generated with the Plankton Lifeform Extraction Tool currently inform plankton and food web indicators for the UK's Marine Strategy, the EU's Marine Strategy Framework Directive, and for the Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment of the North-East Atlantic (OSPAR) biodiversity assessments. The Plankton Lifeform Extraction Tool currently integrates 155 000 samples, containing over 44 million plankton records, from nine different plankton datasets within UK and European seas, collected between 1924 and 2017. Additional datasets can be added, and time series can be updated. The Plankton Lifeform Extraction Tool is hosted by The Archive for Marine Species and Habitats Data (DASSH) at https://www.dassh.ac.uk/lifeforms/ (last access: 22 November 2021, Ostle et al., 2021). The lifeform outputs are linked to specific, DOI-ed, versions of the Plankton Lifeform Traits Master List and each underlying dataset.



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Earth System Science Data





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School of Biological and Marine Sciences