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Chapman Conference on Long Time-Series Observations in Coastal Ecosystems: Comparative Analyses of Phytoplankton Dynamics on Regional to Global Scales

Location: Hotel Eden, Rovinj, Croatia
Event Type: Workshop
Event Date: 2007-10-08    
End Date: 2007-10-12

Event Description:
Planet Earth is changing rapidly in response to natural processes and human activities, but our understanding of global change is incomplete because we have not adequately explored, inventoried or compared available observational data. This conference will be convened to compare, analyze and interpret phytoplankton changes in coastal marine ecosystems around the world. A focus will be on phytoplankton because of its critical ecological [function] of primary production that fuels food webs, its prominent roles in the transformations and cycling of key elements, its impact on coastal water quality, and its fast population responses to environmental variability that records change over time scales from hours to geologic epochs.

The conference is focused on coastal ecosystems (e.g. tidal rivers, estuaries, fjords, bays, sounds, open waters of the continental shelf, etc.) where perturbations from terrestrial, atmospheric, oceanic sources and human activities converge to cause changes that ramify across local and global scales. Human pressure on the continental margins is increasing with expanding urbanization and the conflicting demands of tourism, aquaculture, water diversions, wind parks and other developments. These forcings and phytoplankton responses to them have different spatial and temporal scales, so long-term time series observations with sufficient resolution provide an important means to resolve changes caused by human activities from natural variability. However, the mechanistic basis and potential utility of phytoplankton indicators are not well understood or developed. This workshop is conceived as a step to compare patterns, processes and scales of phytoplankton variability and the population ecology of key species across the full diversity of coastal ecosystem types. Local- and regional-scale observational programs are maintained in coastal marine waters of all continents, but these remain largely isolated data.

The objective is to assemble and synthesize multi-decade observations toward quantitative and descriptive depictions of phytoplankton variability as an indicator of environmental change. The visions are a global phenology of phytoplankton at the land-sea margin and a conceptual model from which coastal ocean observing systems can be built. The conference will be organized around comparative analysis of ecosystems to answer three guiding questions:

What are the dominant scales of variability in phytoplankton biomass, abundance, floristic composition, species composition, and/or species diversity? Is there evidence for secular trends or regime shifts? With which criteria can we best differentiate long-term signals from interannual noise?
Is there evidence for external forcings of variability and change (e.g., effects of climate change, basin scale oscillations, land-based inputs, atmospheric deposition, alien species)? Are changes coherent in space and/or time?
Are there consistent patterns among ecosystems in terms of relationships between environmental parameters, phytoplankton biomass and changes in species/floristic composition?

This conference is endorsed by MarBEF. This entitles all MarBEF members to put the costs of max 1 participant to the conference for max 1000 EUR on their MarBEF account. We do ask to advertise this support by MarBEF in eventual oral and poster contributions by MarBEF members.

Contact email: James E. Cloern,

Event programme:
Working Groups of 15-25 participants will present, analyze, discuss, compare and synthesize data from diverse coastal ecosystem types to address the three guiding questions given above. Each Working Group will search for consistent patterns and refine/revise rules that govern phytoplankton dynamics based on these patterns. Chairs will lead the processes of organizing Working Groups to conduct analyses and prepare reports. Synthesizers will work with their respective chairs and use notes recorded by rapporteurs to prepare plenary reports on Days 2-4. Synthesizers will work together to prepare a preliminary synthesis to be presented and discussed in plenary on Day 5. Each working group will include at least one person with expertise in statistical assessments of long-term time series data. This will be a computer intensive workshop and participants will be asked to bring computers, memory sticks, statistical software, and data in formats prescribed to optimize sharing and comparison across ecosystems. The conference program will be built from contributed and invited papers, following this draft agenda:

Day 1 - Plenary Session #1

Opening, Introductions, Announcements, Logistics
Conference Purpose, Objectives, Guiding Questions, Approach, and Deliverables
Invited Review: "Key Phytoplankton Species in the Coastal Zone - Life Cycles, Biogeochemical Significance and Selective Processes"
Invited Review: "Event-scale variability: comparative analyses of the patterns and processes of episodic blooms across coastal ecosystems"
Invited Review: "Seasonal variability: comparative analyses of the patterns and processes of the annual cycle across coastal ecosystems"
Invited Review: "Interannual variability: comparative analyses of multidecadal trends, regime shifts and persistent disturbance from large events across coastal ecosystems"
Organize Working Groups (including discussion of common formats for data and reports, and typologies of coastal ecosystems for intercomparisons)

Day 2 - Breakout Session #1

Working Group 1: Chair - Susan Blackburn; Synthesizers - James Cloern and Thomas Malone
Working Group 2: Chair - Patrick Holligan; Synthesizers - Trevor Platt, Hans Paerl, and Nenad Smodlaka
Working Group 3: Chair - Paul Harrison; Synthesizers - Chris Reid, Victor Smetacek and Adriana Zingone

Day 2 - Plenary Session #2

Reports of Working Group Chairs (progress, problems, next steps)
Open Discussion
Reconstitution of Working Groups (allowing participants to work on more than one guiding question if they choose)

Day 3 AM - Breakout Session #2

Working groups continue to develop syntheses, test existing rules and propose new rules of phytoplankton dynamics.

Day 3 PM - Free

Day 4 - Breakout Session #3

Working groups continue to develop syntheses, test existing rules and propose new rules of phytoplankton dynamics.

Day 4 - Plenary Session #3

Reports of WG Chairs
Open Discussion

Day 5 - Plenary Session #4

Final Report of Working Group 1 (major findings, rules validated with comparative analyses, new emerging rules, knowledge gaps) - Susan Blackburn and James Cloern
Final Report of Working Group 2 - Patrick Holligan and Trevor Platt
Final Report of Working Group 3 - Paul Harrison and Chris Reid
Invited Synthesis: "Emerging Rules of Coastal Phytoplankton Dynamics - Implications for Numerical Modeling and Ecological Forecasting"
Invited Synthesis: "Emerging Rules of Coastal Phytoplankton Dynamics - Synthesis to Guide Coastal Research"
Invited Synthesis: "Emerging Rules of Coastal Phytoplankton Dynamics - Synthesis to Guide Management of Coastal Ecosystems and Design of Coastal Observing Systems"
Invited Synthesis: "Future Scenarios: how and why might coastal phytoplankton dynamics change in the 21st century?"
Overall Synthesis interspersed with Talks and Open Discussion - Facilitated by James Cloern, Patrick Holligan and Chris Reid
Steps Toward a Synthetic Publication - James Cloern
Conference Closing - Croatian Minister of Science, and Representative from Croatian Ministry of Environment

Collaborators and organisers:

James E. Cloern, United States Geological Survey, 345 Middlefield Rd., Menlo Park, California, USA 94025; Voice: +1-650-329-4594; Fax: +1- 650-329-4327; E-mail:

Nenad Smodlaka, Head, Rudjer Boskovic Institute, Center for Marine Research, Rovinj, Croatia; Voice: +385-52-804-701; Fax +385-52-813-496; E-mail:

Program Committee
Susan Blackburn, CSIRO Marine and Atmospheric Research (Australia)
Paul Harrison, Hong Kong University of Science and Technology (Hong Kong)
Patrick Holligan, Southampton Oceanography Centre, University of Southampton (UK)
Thomas C. Malone, OceanUS Office for Integrated and Sustained Ocean Observations (US)
Hans Paerl, Institute of Marine Sciences, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (US)
Trevor Platt, Bedford Institute of Oceanography (Canada)
Chris Reid, Sir Alistar Hardy Foundation for Ocean Science (UK)
Victor Smetacek, Alfred Wegner Institute of Marine & Polar Research (Germany)
Adriana Zingone, Stazione Zoologica 'A. Dohrn' (Italy)



Website url:

Registration form:

Registration fee: 

Relevant costs that should be taken by MARBEF:  

Possibility for day-care centres (facilities for children): No

MarBEF supported event: Yes

Event within Framework of MARBEF: (none)

Maximum number of participants: 

External participants (non MARBEF) allowed: Yes

Posted by zingoneadriana on 2007-01-17 and approved by webmaster