Continous Plankton Recorder phytoplankton and zooplankton occurrence and count data from The CPR Survey in the North Atlantic Ocean from 2014 to 2019

Data Type: Cruise Results
Version: 3
Version Date: 2021-02-10

» The Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) Survey: Monitoring the Plankton of the North Atlantic (CPR Plankton Survey)
Wiebe, Peter H.Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI)Principal Investigator
Johns, DavidThe Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom (MBA)Co-Principal Investigator, Contact
Edwards, MartinThe Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom (MBA)Project Coordinator
Wilson, WillieThe Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom (MBA)Contact, Data Manager
Broughton, DerekThe Marine Biological Association of the United Kingdom (MBA)Data Manager
Copley, NancyWoods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI BCO-DMO)BCO-DMO Data Manager

This dataset includes Continous Plankton Recorder (CPR) phytoplankton and zooplankton occurrence and count data from the Marine Biological Association of the UK, the CPR Survey, in the North Atlantic Ocean from Jan. 2014 to April 2019.


Spatial Extent: N:64.907 E:-23.092 S:36.28 W:-74.743
Temporal Extent: 2014-01-12 - 2019-01-02

Dataset Description

Over the last 90 years, the CPR Survey analysis team has analyzed more than a quarter of a million samples from over 7 million miles of tows in the North Sea, Norwegian Sea, North and South Atlantic, North Pacific, and Indian Oceans.

Spatial and temporal data are stored at the Marine Biological Association of the UK (MBA) for every sample analyzed by the CPR Survey, since 1946. This amounts to over 261,000 samples, with around 200 more samples added per month. The presence of every planktonic entity identified on each sample is stored in the database, and there are over 2 million plankton records in total. The database also contains supportive information such as tow locations, times and dates, ship details, a taxon catalog and analyst details.

Over 800 zooplankton and phytoplankton entities have been identified on CPR samples, and the 'abundance' of each entity on each sample can be extracted from the database. Some plankton are identified to species level, some to genus level, and some at a higher taxonomic level. Some entities are groups of other entities. The complete Species List is kept in the database.

Data can be extracted from user-defined areas, over specified periods, for selected entities [from the 'The CPR Survey' site]. For example, all samples taken from the Dogger Bank area in the North Sea during March, April, and May since 1946 could be extracted from the database, and the 'abundance' of selected diatom species on each sample could be listed. Alternatively, an average value, number of samples, and standard deviation per year per month could be retrieved. The data can be exported to statistical and presentation packages in many popular formats such as text, rich text, comma-separated, MS Excel, MS Access, MS Word, Fox Pro, Dbase, Lotus, and to SQL compliant databases. The CPR Survey can supply some descriptive data at little cost (usually free).

If you would like to know more about CPR coverage of a particular location, contact David Johns at The CPR Survey.

For information about methods and parameters, and link to The CPR Survey data page:

Methods & Sampling

Sampling occurred between 5 and 10 meters depth. The sample size was 3 cubic meters. For complete methodology, refer to Richardson et al (2006).

Data were extracted and zipped from the CPR Survey database using GBIF/IPT ( v. 2.3.6.

The occurrence.txt table contains rows for every taxon that was identified. To determine which taxa were looked for but not found, cross-reference the TaxonId field with the contents of

Data Processing Description

Data were extracted and zipped from the CPR Survey database using GBIF/IPT ( v. 2.3.6.

BCO-DMO Processing Description

BCO-DMO Processing:
- Occurrence and event files were joined into a single dataset.
- Dates (modified and event) were reformatted to ISO_DateTime_UTC format: yyyy-mm-ddTHH:MM:SSZ
- Sorted the records by event_ISO_DateTime_UTC

v3, 2021-02-10, covers 2014-01-12 to 2019-04-09
v2. 2020-05-25, covers 2014-01-12 to 2019-01-02
v1: 2019-04-17, original 2014-01-12 to 2018

[ table of contents | back to top ]

Data Files

(Comma Separated Values (.csv), 24.54 MB)
Primary data file for dataset ID 765141

[ table of contents | back to top ]

Related Publications

Johns, D. (2019). North Atlantic samples for BCO-DMO (CPR Survey) v1.2 [Data set]. Marine Biological Association of the UK, CPR Survey.
Richardson, A. J., Walne, A. W., John, A. W. G., Jonas, T. D., Lindley, J. A., Sims, D. W., … Witt, M. (2006). Using continuous plankton recorder data. Progress in Oceanography, 68(1), 27–74. doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2005.09.011

[ table of contents | back to top ]


eventIDCPR Survey unique sample identifier unitless
modified_ISO_DateTime_UTCLast date modified (UTC) unitless
rightsHolderentity holding rights for data unitless
institutionIDinsitution identifier unitless
datasetNamename of dataset (CPR = Continuous Plankton Recorder) unitless
sampleSizeUnitsample size units meters^3
sampleSizeValuevolume of sample unitless
event_ISO_DateTime_UTCDate and time sample was collected (UTC) unitless
fieldNumberCPR Survey tow ID unitless
maximumDepthInMetersmaximum depth of sampling meters
minimumDepthInMetersminimum depth of sampling meters
decimalLatitudelatitude of sample; north is positive decimal degrees
decimalLongitudelongitude of sample; east is positive decimal degrees
geodeticDatumEPSG Geodetic location code unitless
basisOfRecordmethod by which sample identification and count were determined unitless
taxonIDCPR Survey’s taxon id unitless
scientificNameIDAPHIA id from WoRMS ( unitless
scientificNameTaxonomic name from WoRMS unitless
occurrenceIDCPR Survey unique occurrence identifier unitless
catalogNumberCPR Survey catalog number unitless
individualCountnumber of individuals counts on sample mesh. See Richardson et al (2006) for details. unitless

[ table of contents | back to top ]


Dataset-specific Instrument Name
Generic Instrument Name
Continous Plankton Recorder
Generic Instrument Description
The CPR is a plankton sampling instrument designed to be towed from merchant ships or ships of opportunity on their normal sailings. The CPR is towed at a depth of approximately 10 metres. Water passes through the CPR and plankton are filtered onto a slow-moving band of silk (270 micrometre mesh size) and covered by a second silk. The silks and plankton are then spooled into a storage tank containing formalin. On return to the laboratory, the silk is removed from the mechanism and divided into samples representing 10 nautical miles (19 km) of tow. CPR samples are analyzed in two ways. Firstly, the Phytoplankton Color Index (PCI) is determined for each sample. The colour of the silk is evaluated against a standard colour chart and given a 'green-ness' value based on the visual discoloration of the CPR silk produced by green chlorophyll pigments; the PCI is a semiquantitative estimate of phytoplankton biomass. In this way the PCI takes into account the chloroplasts of broken cells and small phytoplankton which cannot be counted during the microscopic analysis stage. After determination of the PCI, microscopic analysis is undertaken for each sample, and individual phytoplankton and zooplanktontaxa are identified and counted. Reid, P.C.; Colebrook, J.M.; Matthews, J.B.L.; Aiken, J.; et al. (2003). "The Continuous Plankton Recorder: concepts and history, from plankton indicator to undulating recorders".Progress in Oceanography 58(2-4): 117-175. doi:10.1016/j.pocean.2003.08.002. Warner, A.J., and Hays, G.C.,; Hays, G (1994). "Sampling by the Continuous Plankton Recorder survey". Progress in Oceanography 34(2–3): 237–256. doi:10.1016/0079-6611(94)90011-6.

[ table of contents | back to top ]



Start Date
Continuous Plankton Recorder deployments on many ships of opportunity.

[ table of contents | back to top ]

Project Information

The Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) Survey: Monitoring the Plankton of the North Atlantic (CPR Plankton Survey)

Coverage: Western North Atlantic Ocean

Note: This project has been funded by multiple NSF OCE awards between 2012 to 2027.  This section contains the current project information associated with the most recent award (OCE-2336430, PI: Rubao Ji).  See the "Files" section of this page for data management plans for project abstracts for each past award (PI: Peter Weibe).  Project information for each award can also be found at NSF's website: .

NSF project information (OCE-2336430):

Project Summary

The Continuous Plankton Recorder (CPR) survey, operational since 1958, is globally renowned for its longevity and scope in oceanic plankton monitoring. It is vital to continue the CPR survey to preserve the long time series, to fully leverage this rich dataset, and to ensure its widespread accessibility. This proposal concentrates on three primary objectives. 1) Maintain core monitoring: Continue the established CPR monitoring in the Northwest Atlantic along the 'Z route,' which spans from Iceland to the eastern margin of the USA. Supported by NSF for over 17 years, the Z route has recognized importance due to its traversal through the climate-sensitive and highly productive subpolar gyre region, which holds critical implications for basin-wide fisheries and carbon sequestration. 2) Form a working group for CPR data exploration: Assemble a working group by bringing together current and new collaborators to develop major research themes and data analysis methodologies. The group will convene annually to pinpoint key research areas that can capitalize on the extensive temporal coverage of the Z route and other CPR routes globally. 3) Enhance training and outreach for the US researchers: Implement annual training workshops for US researchers, focusing on CPR data utilization.

Intellectual Merit:

Long-term observations like the CPR survey are critical in evaluating and quantifying the scale and effects of climate and anthropogenic pressures such as climate change, acidification, eutrophication, and loss of biodiversity in the Northwest Atlantic. This program will form a working group for CPR Z route data exploration to examine a series of scientific questions, examining timescales of change in community diversity and structure, how connected the changes are to the broader ocean, and how changes can impact ecosystem function. We will bring together a multidisciplinary group of collaborators to develop major research themes and data analysis methods. A critical aspect of this project is the continued maintenance of long-term time series. Without sustained support, we risk the creation of a data gap that could inhibit our understanding of long-term trends and changes in marine ecosystems. The continued observation provided by this project is essential to preserving the continuity of these invaluable datasets, enabling us to monitor, understand, and adapt to the ongoing shifts in ocean ecosystems.

Broader Impacts:

The proposed project will not only address U.S marine issues but significantly contribute to international programs such as the Global Ocean Observing System (GOOS), GEO-BON, the International Oceanographic Commission (IOC), the Scientific Commission on Oceanic Research (SCOR), the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES), the Partnership for Observation of the Global Oceans (POGO) and the North Pacific Marine Science Organization (PICES). In collaboration with the Biological & Chemical Oceanography Data Management Office (BCO-DMO), we will ensure that all data from the survey is publicly accessible, fostering collaboration and engagement. Capacity building is integral to our project. We will conduct annual workshops alongside working group meetings to train early-career researchers for CPR data utilization. Experts will share practical use cases, with details on data access and processing procedures, data analysis approaches, and scientific discoveries. Securing the long-term maintenance of the CPR sample archive will maximize its use by the broader scientific community. By making it available for diverse research, including molecular studies, biogeochemical analyses, biodiversity assessments, and more, we address critical areas in marine policy and societal concerns regarding marine environments. 

[ table of contents | back to top ]


Funding SourceAward
NSF Division of Ocean Sciences (NSF OCE)
NSF Division of Ocean Sciences (NSF OCE)

[ table of contents | back to top ]