The Western Channel Observatory: a century of physical, chemical and biological data compiled from pelagic and benthic habitats in the western English Channel

The Western Channel Observatory (WCO) comprises a series of pelagic, benthic and atmospheric sampling sites within 40 km of Plymouth, UK, that have been sampled by the Plymouth institutes on a regular basis since 1903. This longevity of recording and the high frequency of observations provide a unique combination of data; for example temperature data were first collected in 1903, and the reference station L4, where nearly 400 planktonic taxa have been enumerated, has been sampled on a weekly basis since 1988. While the component datasets have been archived, here we provide the first summary database bringing together a wide suite of the observations. This provides monthly average values of some of the key pelagic and benthic measurements for the inshore site L4 (50∘15.00′ N, 4∘13.02′ W; approx. depth 55 m), the offshore site E1 (50∘02.00′ N, 4∘22.00′ W; approx. depth 75 m) and the intermediate L5 site (50∘10.80′ N, 4∘18.00′ W; approx. depth 58 m). In brief, these data include the following: water temperature (from 1903); macronutrients (from 1934); dissolved inorganic carbon and total alkalinity (from 2008); methane and nitrous oxide (from 2011); chlorophyll a (from 1992); high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC)-derived pigments (from 1999); <20 µm plankton by flow cytometry, including bacteria (8 functional groups from 2007); phytoplankton by microscopy (6 functional groups from 1992); microplankton and mesozooplankton from FlowCam (6 groups from 2012); Noctiluca sp. dinoflagellate (from 1997); mesozooplankton by microscopy (8 groups from 1988); Calanus helgolandicus egg production rates (from 1992); fish larvae from the Young Fish Trawl survey (4 groups from 1924); benthic macrofauna (4 groups from 2008); demersal fish (19 families from 2008); blue shark, Prionace glauca (from 1958); and 16S alpha diversity for sediment and water column (from 2012). These data have varying coverage with respect to time and depth resolution. The metadata tables describe each dataset and provide pointers to the source data and other related Western Channel Observatory datasets and outputs not compiled here. We provide summaries of the main trends in seasonality and some major climate-related shifts that have been revealed over the last century. The data are available from the Data Archive for Seabed Species and Habitats (DASSH): (McEvoy and Atkinson, 2023). Making these data fully accessible and including units of both abundance and biomass will stimulate a variety of uptakes. These may include uses as an educational resource for projects, for models and budgets, for the analysis of seasonality and long-term change in a coupled benthic–pelagic system, or for supporting UK and north-eastern Atlantic policy and management.

Data and Resources

Additional Info

Field Value
Author Andrea J. McEvoy, Angus Atkinson, Ruth L. Airs, Rachel Brittain, Ian Brown, Elaine S. Fileman, Helen S. Findlay, Caroline L. McNeill, Clare Ostle, Tim J. Smyth, Paul J. Somerfield, Karen Tait, Glen A. Tarran, Simon Thomas, Claire E. Widdicombe, E. Malcolm S. Woodward, Amanda Beesley, David V. P. Conway, James Fishwick, Hannah Haines, Carolyn Harris, Roger Harris, Pierre Hélaouët, David Johns, Penelope K. Lindeque, Thomas Mesher, Abigail McQuatters-Gollop, Joana Nunes, Frances Perry, Ana M. Queiros, Andrew Rees, Saskia Rühl, David Sims, Ricardo Torres, and Stephen Widdicombe
Maintainer Tom Mansfield
Version 1.0
Last Updated January 10, 2024, 11:11 (UTC)
Created January 10, 2024, 11:09 (UTC)