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Intercalibrating SCOR, NORPAC and bongo nets and the consequences for interpreting decadal-scale variation in zooplankton biomass in the Gulf of Alaska

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The Canadian weathership time series of zooplankton wet weight biomass, collected at Ocean Station Papa in the Gulf of Alaska from 1956 to 1981, is one of the most comprehensive of its kind in marine science. In 1966, the sampling gear changed from a white North Pacific (NORPAC) net to a black Scientific Committee on Oceanic Research (SCOR) net and it was recently discovered that insufficient intercalibration samples were collected to understand how their sampling properties differed. A Canada-GLOBEC project to redo the intercalibration of these net types and to understand how they relate to current sampling gear (bongo net) started in 1997. Seventy replicates of the three net types were collected in deep water in the Gulf of Alaska. The major finding is that all nets have similar sampling characteristics, whereas earlier reports indicated that NORPAC biomass values should be multiplied by a factor of 1.538 to be equivalent to the SCOR net. It now appears that this factor arose because flowmeters were not used in the original 1956–81 sampling (volume filtered was estimated from tow length × mouth area). A positive bias was introduced into the SCOR values because relatively more water passed through the SCOR net (undetected without a flow meter) than through the NORPAC net. This means that the unmetered NORPAC samples from 1956 to 1966 should not be adjusted and the unmetered SCOR values should be reduced by a factor that is related to wire angle. The general effect on the entire series is to lower the average biomass estimates, but more so for the early portion of the series than the later years.

Keywords: North Pacific; Station P; climate change; copepod; flowmeter; regime; standard

Document Type: Research Article


Affiliations: Institute of Ocean Sciences, 9860 West Saanich Road, PO Box 6000, Sidney, B.C., Canada V8L 4B2

Publication date: March 1, 2003


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