BATS Zooplankton Census

Diel, seasonal, and interannual patterns in zooplankton and micronekton species composition in the subtropical Atlantic

We are developing a multi-species inventory of zooplankton and micronekton at the Bermuda Atlantic Time-Series Study (BATS) station, a 13-year, ongoing oceanographic time series situated in the western North Atlantic subtropical gyre, or Sargasso Sea. This study is part of an initiative to create an online atlas of marine diversity, the Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS), a database of global marine animal and plant distributions.

There are two important reasons for a census of the diversity and abundance of the plankton. The first is the need to describe and understand patterns of distribution and abundance of organisms and to predict the impact of environmental change on those patterns. The second is to better understand their qualitative and quantitative role in the pelagic food web and the cycling of elements in the sea. Planktonic communities comprise a wide diversity of organisms that form the basis of marine food webs, providing a direct link between primary producers and higher trophic levels such as fishes, seabirds, and some marine mammals.

The program will provide high-resolution species data that covers diel, seasonal, annual, and decadal time scales. Detailed accompanying environmental "metadata" data already available from BATS cruises (e.g., water column temperature, oxygen, nutrients, and plant pigment concentration) will be merged with the species data set. A critical research objective is to provide data on species distribution and abundance to OBIS and to serve as a starting place in which data collected in the future can be placed.

The project is a collaboration between the Virgnina Institute of Marine Science, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Russian Academy of Sciences' Zoological Institute, the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History, and the Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences.

This census will provide a high-quality time series of zooplankton and micronekton species composition, enabling us to determine the difference between natural variability and real "change" in the diversity of plankton communities. This will be critical for testing and validation of ecosystem models, and for understanding the effects of long-term climate change on ecosystems.

A more detailed account is given in our grant proposal (.pdf).


Professor Deborah Steinberg,
Joe Cope,
Stephanie Wilson,
Project coordination, species identification, compilation and integration of species data into existing BATS database.

Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)

Laurence Madin, Ph.D.,
James Craddock, Ph.D.,
Erich Horgan,
Species identifications, compilation of species database.

Russian Academy of Science (RAS)

Lena Markhaseva, Ph.D.,
Species identifications, compilation of species database.

Smithsonian Institution

Frank Ferrari, Ph.D.,
Consultant on species identifications.

Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences (BIOS)

Anthony Knap, Ph.D.


The Ocean Biogeographic Information System (OBIS) is a part of The Census of Marine Life (CoML), a  global research program. Funding for our OBIS project has been provided by the National Oceanographic Partnership Program (NOPP) through awards from the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation and the National Science Foundation (NSF) Biological Oceanography Program, NSF OCE-0004256.

Selected Journal Articles

Steinberg, D.K., C.A. Carlson, N.B. Bates, R.J. Johnson, A.F. Michales, and A.H. Knap. 2001. Overview of the US JGOFS Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS): a decade-scale look at ocean biology and biogeochemistry. Deep-Sea Research II. 48(8-9): 1405-1447.

Madin, L.P., E.F. Horgan, and D.K. Steinberg. 2001. Zooplankton at the Bermuda Atlantic Time-series Study (BATS) station: diel, seasonal and interannual variation in biomass, 1994-1998. Deep-Sea Research II. 48(8-9): 2063-2082.

Steinberg, D.K., C.A. Carlson, N.R. Bates, S.A. Goldthwait, L.P. Madin, and A.F. Michaels. 2000. Zooplankton vertical migration and the active transport of dissolved organic and inorganic carbon in the Sargasso Sea. Deep-Sea Research I. 47: 137-158.

View a more comprehensive list of Sargasso Sea zooplankton references.