You are on page 1of 4

A level/ Undergraduate

Human activity and its effects on an ecosystem


There are plenty of examples of mans effect on the natural environment (for example deforestation), but sometimes it is the smallest organisms and their effects that could cause far-reaching effects to our planet. This piece of work is about the phytoplankton diatom Coscinodiscus wailesi and its effects on the North Sea ecosystem. Please look at the following information carefully and answer the questions:

2000

2000

2000

1995

1995

1995

1990

1990

1990

1985

1985

1985

1980

1980

1980

5
AREA 1

10

5
AREA 2

10

5
AREA 3

10

Figure 1. Contour plot of Coscinodiscus wailesii in the North Sea. Area 1: 480N 530N, -50W 90E Area 2: 530N 570N, 00W 90E Area 3: 570N 600N, -20W 90E

Monitoring for the presence and effect of non-indigenous plankton species 5


The introduction of non-indigenous marine plankton species can have a considerable ecological and economic effect on regional systems. Arising from growing concerns of the apparent increase in the occurrence of harmful algal blooms and species introductions a number of international and national initiatives have recently been put in place to improve understanding and develop management and amelioration strategies. The presence of non-indigenous species however, can go unnoticed until they reach nuisance status and as a consequence few case-histories exist containing information on their initial appearance and their spatio-temporal patterns. Sampling by the CPR survey in the North Sea provides a comprehensive geographical network allowing the systematic monitoring of changes in the plankton community in both space and time. This network has enabled a description of the presence of the nonindigenous diatom Coscinodiscus wailesii in the north-east Atlantic, its subsequent geographical spread, and its recent persistence as a significant member of the diatom community in the North Sea. From its initial appearance in 1977 in the English Channel the species has spread and become well established in a number of European continental shelf seas. In the southern North Sea C. wailesii can now reach such a high abundance it can dominate the phytoplankton biomass. Although it has yet to be determined how much of the marked increase in phytoplankton biomass seen in the North Sea since the mid 1980s can be attributed to the increasing importance that C. wailesii is now playing in the autumn and winter phytoplankton of the North Sea. There is however, already strong evidence to suggest that C. wailesii can supersede indigenous plankton species under certain conditions and many native herbivores find the species unpalatable. The ecological consequences of such an invasive species can therefore have potential ecosystem effects by out-competing native species for resources/space, reducing biodiversity and effecting exploitation rates of its primary production by native consumers. The shifting ecological roles in the North Sea in the long-term can only be determined by future observations. This study is the first of its kind to show the spatial evolution of an invasive phytoplankton species over a decadal period and highlights the need for continuous monitoring to assess the effectiveness of any management strategy put in place to limit invasions.

10

15

20

25

30

35

Edwards et al, 2001. Case history and persistence of the non-indigenous diatom Coscinodiscus wailesii in the north- east Atlantic. Journal of Marine Biological Association, UK, 81: 207-211

7000
AREA 1

6000 5000 4000 3000 2000 1000

AREA 2 AREA 3

0 1977 1979 1981 1983 1985 1987 1989 1991 1993 1995 1997 1999

Figure 2. Long term abundance of Coscinodiscus wailesii in the North Sea (Area 1, Area 2 and Area 3)

Questions
1. When and where was C. wailesii first seen around the British Isles? (line 18)

2. How has C.wailesii effected the phytoplankton biomass? (line21)

3. What are the ecological consequences of C. wailesii in the North Sea ecosystem? (line24)

Questions cont.

4. Using the map and the contour plot, describe how C. wailesii has spread into the North Sea since 1980 to the present day

5. Looking at the long term abundance graph, what year and which area had the highest abundance of C. wailesii?

6. Which area of the North Sea has the highest abundance of C.wailesii in 2000?