About GACS

Dr Graham Hosie, GACS Chair

We can only speculate what Sir Alister Hardy would think about his Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) legacy extending beyond the original survey area of the North Sea into new regions. It would be nice to think he would be very pleased to know that the CPR was now considered an essential tool to rapidly survey plankton biodiversity over large ocean scales and then be able to routinely monitor changes in plankton patterns as an indication of the health of marine ecosystems. It seemed appropriate then, during the celebrations in Plymouth UK in September 2011 that marked the 80th anniversary of the start of the North Sea CPR tows, the heads of the nine regional CPR surveys should meet to discuss the formation of a global CPR programme.

Global CPR coverage has long been a vision of the Sir Alister Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (SAHFOS). Prof. Peter Burkill obtained funding for the 'Going Global' initiative when he became Director of SAHFOS. It was a vision shared by the regional surveys as well, who enthusiastically agreed to form the Global Alliance of CPR Surveys (GACS). The general goal of GACS is to understand changes in plankton biodiversity at ocean basin scales through a global alliance of CPR surveys. By 'understand' we mean characterise, analyse and interpret. GACS has a number of specific aims which include:

  • development of a global CPR database
  • production of a regular Ecological Status Report for global plankton biodiversity
  • ensuring common standards and methodologies are maintained
  • providing an interface for plankton biodiversity with other global ocean observation programmes
  • to set up and maintain a website for publicity and data access
  • to facilitate new surveys and develop capacity building procedures
  • to facilitate secondments of CPR scientists between GACS institutions

The map above highlights each of the GACS partner locations

GACS brings together the expertise of approximately 50 plankton specialists, scientists, technicians and administrators from 12 laboratories around the world, towing a common and consistent sampling tool, the CPR, from about 50 vessels. Working together, pooling our data and resources, was considered essential in order to understand the effects of environmental changes on plankton biodiversity at a global level.

Numerous local and regional monitoring and observational programmes have been established in the past, but to date we have lacked a holistic perspective on plankton biodiversity in response to global events such as global warming and ocean acidification. GACS will provide that perspective using CPR data. It will also allow us to assess changes and events at a local or regional level in a world-wide context.

At the heart of GACS is the development of the global database of CPR data that will allow us to make such assessments of local, regional and global changes. A Board of Governance has been established, comprising the regional heads of CPR Surveys, with Dr Graham Hosie as the first Chair and Dr Sonia Batten (North Pacific CPR) as Vice-Chair.

Working groups are being developed and will address the formation of the global CPR database, and maintaining standards and methodologies.

It is exciting times ahead for GACS, and for studying and monitoring plankton biodiversity at a global scale.

The GACS Partners in Plymouth, UK at the first GACS Workshop, 20-21 September 2011.


Sonia Batten signing the MoU with other partners in attendance

GACS Partners