Estuaries and Coasts

, Volume 38, Issue 1, pp 13–23 | Cite as

Impact of Climate Change on Estuarine Zooplankton: Surface Water Warming in Long Island Sound Is Associated with Changes in Copepod Size and Community Structure

  • Edward Rice
  • Hans G. Dam
  • Gillian StewartEmail author


In coastal ecosystems with decades of eutrophication and other anthropogenic stressors, the impact of climate change on planktonic communities can be difficult to detect. A time series of monthly water temperatures in the Central Basin of Long Island Sound (LIS) from the late 1940s until 2012 indicates a warming rate of 0.03 °C year−1. Relative to the early 1950s, there has been a concurrent decrease in the mean size of the dominant copepod species Acartia tonsa and Acartia hudsonica, an increase in the proportion of the small copepod Oithona sp., and the disappearance of the two largest-sized copepod genera from the 1950s. These changes are consistent with predictions of the impact of climate change on aquatic ectotherms. This suggests that even in eutrophic systems where food is not limiting, a continued increase in temperature could result in a smaller-sized copepod community. Since copepods dominate the zooplankton, which in turn link primary producers and upper trophic levels, a reduction in mean size could alter food web connectivity, decreasing the efficiency of trophic transfer between phytoplankton and endemic larval fish.


Climate change Copepods Estuaries Community ecology Body size 



We thank the NMFS/NOAA Milford Laboratory for providing the temperature data. We thank Matthew Lyman and Katie O’Brien-Clayton of the CTDEEP for their assistance in collecting zooplankton samples. We thank the captains of the R/V John Dempsey and R/V Patricia Lynn, Rodney Randall and Kurt Gotschall, as well as the captain of R/V Victor Loosanoff, Robert Alix, and his crewmate, Werner Schreiner. For assistance with statistical analysis, Professor Jeff Bird of Queens College and Professor Stephen Baines of SUNY Stony Brook were invaluable. We thank Lydia Norton, University of Connecticut, for the assistance in sizing copepods. Lastly, we would like to thank the thesis committee members of the first author, Professor John Waldman, Professor Greg O’Mullan, Professor John Marra, and especially Dr. Julie Rose, for their patience and insightful comments. Analysis of the zooplankton samples by Dam and McManus and of copepod sizes for the years 2010–2011 was funded by a contract with the CTDEEP.


  1. Balazs, G.H., and M. Chaloupka. 2004. Thirty-year recovery trend in the once depleted Hawaiian green sea turtle stock. Biological Conservation 117: 491–498.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Beaugrand, G., F. Ibañez, J.A. Lindley, and P.C. Reid. 2002. Diversity of calanoid copepods in the North Atlantic and adjacent seas: species associations and biogeography. Marine Ecological Progress Series 232: 179–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Boyce, D.G., M.R. Lewis, and B. Worm. 2010. Global phytoplankton decline over the past century. Nature 466: 591–596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Bundy, A. 2001. Fishing on ecosystems: the interplay of fishing and predation in Newfoundland-Labrador. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science 58: 1153–1167.Google Scholar
  5. Capriulo, G.M., G. Smith, R. Troy, G.H. Wikfors, J. Pellet, and C. Yarish. 2002. The planktonic food web structure of a temperate zone estuary, and its alteration due to eutrophication. Hydrobiologia 475(476): 263–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Checkley Jr., D.M. 1982. Selective feeding by Atlantic herring (Clupea harengus) larvae on zooplankton in natural assemblages. Marine Ecology Progress Series 9: 245–253.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Chen, B., M.R. Landry, B. Huang, and H. Liu. 2012. Does warming enhance the effect of microzooplankton grazing on marine phytoplankton in the ocean? Limnology and Oceanography 57: 519–526.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Conover, R.J. 1956. Biology of Acartia clausi and A. tonsa. Bulletin of The Bingham Oceanographic Collection 15: 156–233.Google Scholar
  9. Dam, H.G. 2013. Evolutionary adaptation of marine zooplankton to global change. Annual Review of Marine Sciences 5: 349–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Dam, H.G., and W.T. Peterson. 1991. In situ feeding behavior of the copepod Temora longicornis: effects of seasonal variations of chlorophyll size fractions and female body size. Marine Ecology Progress Series 71: 113–123.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Dam, H.G., W.T. Peterson, and D.C. Bellantoni. 1994. Seasonal feeding and fecundity of the calanoid copepod Acartia tonsa in Long Island Sound: is omnivory important to egg production? Hydrobiologia 292(293): 191–199.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Dam, H.G., M.R. Roman, and M.J. Youngbluth. 1995. Downward export of respiratory carbon and dissolved organic nitrogen by diel migrant mesozooplankton at the JGOFS Bermuda timeseries station. Deep-Sea Research I 42: 1187–1197.Google Scholar
  13. Dam, H.G., and G.B. McManus. 2009. Monitoring mesozooplankton and microzooplankton in Long Island Sound, national coastal assessment. Final report to CT DEP Bureau of Water Management.Google Scholar
  14. Danovaro, R., A. Dell‘Anno, and A. Pusceddu. 2004. Biodiversity response to climate change in a warm deep sea. Ecology Letters 7: 821–828.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Daufresne, M., K. Lengfellner, and U. Sommer. 2009. Global warming benefits the small in aquatic ecosystems. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 106: 12788–12793.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Deevey, G.B. 1956. Oceanography of Long Island Sound, 1952–1954. V. Zooplankton. Bulletin of The Bingham Oceanographic Collection 15: 113–155.Google Scholar
  17. Deevey, G.B. 1960. Relative effects of temperature and food on seasonal variations in length of marine copepods in some eastern American and western European waters. Bulletin of The Bingham Oceanographic Collection 17: 54–85.Google Scholar
  18. Durbin, E.G., A.G. Durbin, T.J. Smayda, and P.G. Verity. 1983. Food limitation of production by adult Acartia tonsa in Narragansett Bay, Rhode Island. Limnology and Oceanography 28(6): 1199–1213.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Durbin, E.G., A.G. Durbin, and R.G. Campbell. 1992. Body size and egg production in the marine copepod Acartia hudsonica during a winter–spring diatom bloom in Narragansett Bay. Limnology and Oceanography 37(2): 342–360.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Evans, F. 1981. An investigation into the relationship of sea temperature and food supply to the size of the planktonic copepod Temora longicornis Müller in the North Sea. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 13: 145–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Forster, J., and A. Hirst. 2012. The temperature–size rule emerges from ontogenetic differences between growth and development rates. Functional Ecology 26: 483–492.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Forster, J., A.G. Hirst, and D. Atkinson. 2012. Warming-induced reductions in body size are greater in aquatic than terrestrial species. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109: 19310–19314.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Harris, R.P., P.H. Wiebe, J. Lenz, H.R. Skjoldal, and M. Huntley. 2000. ICES zooplankton methodology manual. London: Academic.Google Scholar
  24. Hopcroft, R.R., J.C. Roff, and F.P. Chavez. 2001. Size paradigms in copepod communities: a re-examination. Hydrobiologia 453(454): 133–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Howell, P., and P.J. Auster. 2012. Phase shift in an estuarine finfish community associated with warming temperatures. Marine and Coastal Fisheries: Dynamics, Management, and Ecosystem Science 4: 481–495.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Huntley, M.E., and M.D.G. Lopez. 1992. Temperature-dependent production of marine copepods: a global synthesis. The American Naturalist 140: 201–242.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Johnson, W.S., and D.M. Allen. 2005. Zooplankton of the Atlantic and Gulf Coasts: a guide to their identification and ecology. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Kane, J. 2003. Spatial and temporal abundance patterns for the late stage copepodites of Metridia lucens (Copepoda: Calanoida) in the US northeast continental shelf ecosystem. Journal of Plankton Research 25: 151–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Kimmel, D.G., M.R. Roman, and X. Zhang. 2006. Spatial and temporal variability in factors affecting mesozooplankton dynamics in Chesapeake Bay: evidence from biomass size spectra. Limnology and Oceanography 51: 131–141.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lonsdale, D.J., E.M. Cosper, W.S. Kim, M. Doall, A. Divadeenam, and S.H. Jonasdottir. 1996. Food web interactions in the plankton of Long Island bays, with preliminary observations on brown tide effects. Marine Ecology Progress Series 134: 247–263.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Moore, M., and C. Folt. 1993. Zooplankton body size and community structure: effects of thermal and toxicant stress. Trends in Ecology and Evolution 8: 175–183.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Nakamura, Y., and J. Turner. 1997. Predation and respiration by the small cyclopoid copepod Oithona similis: how important is feeding on ciliates and heterotrophic flagellates? Journal of Plankton Research 19: 1275–1288.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Nixon, S.W., S. Granger, B. Buckley, M. Lamont, and B. Rowell. 2004. A one hundred and seventeen year coastal water temperature record from Woods Hole, MA. Estuaries and Coasts 27: 1–8.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Park, G.S., and H.G. Marshall. 2000. Estuarine relationships between zooplankton community structure and trophic gradients. Journal of Plankton Research 22: 121–135.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Pelletier, M.C., A.J. Gold, L. Gonzalez, and C. Oviatt. 2012. Application of multiple index development approaches to benthic invertebrate data from the Virginian Biogeographic Province, USA. Ecological Indicators 23: 176–188.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Peterson, W.T. 1985. Abundance, age structure, and in-situ egg production rates of the copepod Temora longicornis in Long Island Sound, New York. Bulletin of Marine Science 37: 726–738.Google Scholar
  37. Pinto-Coelho, R.M. 1998. Effects of eutrophication on seasonal patterns of mesozooplankton in a tropical reservoir: a 4-year study in Pampulha Lake, Brazil. Freshwater Biology 40: 159–173.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Põllupüü, M. 2007. Effect of formalin preservation on the body length of copepods. Proceeding of the Estonian Academy of Science, Biology, and Ecology 56: 326–331.Google Scholar
  39. Rice, E.J., and G.M. Stewart. 2013. Analysis of interdecadal trends in chlorophyll and temperature in the Central Basin of Long Island Sound. Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science 128: 65–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Riley, G.A., S.A.M. Conover, G.B. Deevey, R.J. Conover, S.B. Wheatland, E. Harris, and H.L. Sanders. 1956. Oceanography of Long Island Sound, 1952–1954. Bulletin of The Bingham Oceanographic Collection 15: 1–414.Google Scholar
  41. Riley, G.A., and S.A.M. Conover. 1956. Chemical oceanography of Long Island Sound, 1952–1954. Bulletin of The Bingham Oceanographic Collection 15: 47–61.Google Scholar
  42. Sabatini, M.E. 1990. The developmental stages (Copepodids I to VI) of Acartia tonsa danae, 1849 (Copepoda, Calanoida). Crustaceana 59: 53–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Seekall, D.A., and M.L. Pace. 2011. Climate change drives warming in the Hudson River Estuary, New York (USA). Journal of Environmental Monitoring 13: 2321–2327.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Sen, P.K. 1968. Estimates of the regression coefficient based on Kendall’s tau. Journal of the American Statistical Association 63: 1379–1389.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Sheridan, J.A., and D. Bickford. 2011. Shrinking body size as an ecological response to climate change. Nature Climate Change 1: 401–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Stachowicz, J.J., J.R. Terwin, R.B. Whitlatch, and R.W. Osman. 2002. Linking climate change and biological invasions: ocean warming facilitates nonindigenous species invasions. Proceedings of the National Academy of the Sciences 99: 15497–15500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Turner, J.T. 1984. The feeding ecology of some zooplankters that are important prey items of larval fish. NOAA Tech Rep National Marine Fisheries Service 7: 1–28.Google Scholar
  48. Uye, S.I., T. Shimazu, M. Yamamuro, Y. Ishitobi, and H. Kamiya. 2000. Geographical and seasonal variations in mesozooplankton abundance and biomass in relation to environmental parameters in Lake Shiji–Ohashi River–Lake Nakaumi brackish-water system, Japan. Journal of Marine Systems 26: 193–207.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Viitasalo, M., M. Koski, K. Pellikka, and S. Johansson. 1995. Seasonal and long-term variations in the body size of planktonic copepods in the northern Baltic Sea. Marine Biology 123: 241–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Wickstead, J.H. 1976. Marine zooplankton. Studies in biology no. 62. London: Edward Arnold.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Coastal and Estuarine Research Federation 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Queens CollegeCUNYFlushingUSA
  2. 2.Department of Marine SciencesUniversity of ConnecticutGrotonUSA
  3. 3.Earth and Environmental Sciences, The Graduate CenterCUNYNew YorkUSA

Personalised recommendations