The Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) Type I was first used in Antarctic waters during the 1925–1927 Discovery Expedition, and has been used successfully for 70 years to monitor plankton in the North Sea and North Atlantic Ocean. Sixty-five years later the CPR as a Type II version returned to Antarctic waters when the Australian Antarctic Division initiated a survey of the Southern Ocean on RSV Aurora Australis south of Australia and west to Mawson. The objectives are to study regional, seasonal, interannual and long-term variability in zooplankton abundance, species composition and community patterns, as well as the annual abundance and distribution of krill larvae. The survey covers a large area from 60°E to 160°E, and south from about 48°S to the Antarctic coast—an area of more than 14 million km2. Tows are conducted throughout the shipping season, normally September to April, but occasionally as early as July (midwinter). The large areal and temporal scale means that it is difficult to separate temporal and geographical variation in the data. Hence, CPRs are now also towed on the Japanese icebreaker Shirase in collaboration with the Japanese Antarctic programme. Shirase has a fixed route and time schedule, travelling south on 110°E in early December and north on 150°E in mid-March each year, and will serve as an important temporal reference for measuring long-term interannual variability and to help interpret the Australian data. Since 1991, over 90 tows have been made, providing over 36,000 nautical miles of records. The most successful seasons to date have been the 1997/1998, 1999/2000 and 2000/2001 austral summers with 20, 31 and 26 tows, respectively. The 1999/2000 season included a unique, nearly simultaneous three-ship crossing of the Southern Ocean along 25° 30’E, 110°E and 157°E. Typical CPR tows show very high abundance of zooplankton in the uppermost 20 m of the permanently open ocean zone between the sea-ice zone and the Sub-Antarctic Front; this is an area thought to be oligotrophic. Appendicularians and small calanoid and cyclopoid copepods dominate the plankton. By comparison the surface waters of the sea-ice zone have low species diversity and abundances. Zooplankton data, and hence distribution patterns, can be time- and geo-coded to GPS data and environmental data collected by the ships’ underway monitoring system (e.g. fluorescence, water temperature, salinity, and meteorological data).
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