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HI 036405

Emiliania huxleyi

Photo: Stig Bjarte Haugen

The Research Group is active in environmental monitoring and research, as it provides advice to the Norwegian Government on environmental issues associated with phytoplankton, zooplankton, fish eggs and fish larvae in our marine ecosystems. 

The Plankton Group has a responsibility to monitor and assess plankton growth, species diversity and seasonal successions in coastal waters and offshore regions of the world’s oceans.

Mission statement

Our goal is to contribute towards a better understanding of the biogeochemistry and nutrient cycling in the marine environment. Dissolved inorganic nutrients in the marine environment determine photosynthesis and phytoplankton growth (primary productivity), providing sustenance for zooplankton growth (secondary growth). The group has a keen interest in the nutrient flow and ecological interactions in marine food webs, including potential effects of eutrophication and the presence of harmful algae in these environments. Detailed knowledge about the lower levels of the food chain is essential in order to develop a holistic, system wide plan for marine resource management of our oceans. We will contribute to this process through research and environmental resource monitoring.


The Plankton Research Group is made up of 3 subgroups (Zooplankton, Phytoplankton and Inorganic Chemistry) located at a number of facilities within Norway (BergenFlødevigenAustevoll). Below is an overview of the group’s current research areas and focus, including activities the last 5 years. At times, and as needed, the group is also developing new methods and sampling techniques applicable to the marine environment.

Open ocean monitoring

Almost all members of the research group are involved in regular transect cruises used to monitor the open ocean regions surrounding Norway.
Havovervåkingen (Norw.) – On transect cruises, approximately 4-6 times a year, each of the open ocean waters surrounding Norway are monitored in order to assess the status of dissolved inorganic nutrients, the growth of phytoplankton and zooplankton, and the potential impact these parameters may have on fisheries resources at higher trophic levels.
Økosystemtoktene (Norw.) – Already established environmental indicators are used to assess current condition and ecological development in each of the three major oceans surrounding Norway; the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, and the Barents Sea. Each of the environmental indicators is adhered to in accordance to the National Marine Resource Plans established for each of the oceans. Our group is using dissolved inorganic nutrient concentrations, as well as phytoplankton and zooplan species identification, as environmental indicators.
Polarbuoy (Station M) – This tethered mooring has a surface buoy that monitor marine weather and the ocean climate in the SE part of the Norwegian Sea, continuously and in real time. Our group is collecting water samples from this location regularly, in order to monitor the dissolved inorganic carbon water chemistry that is also used in calibrations of the buoy sensors.
Havkjemi – A number of projects associated with our group, collect dissolved inorganic carbon samples used in the environmental monitoring of dissolved CO2, lowering of the ocean pH, and the potential impact these processes may have on plankton organisms (e.g. calcareous discs on Coccolithophores, aragonite shells in Pteropods).

Coastal research and monitoring of the fjords

By applying a number of biological, physical and chemical parameters, a number of ecological keys have been developed in accordance with the National Guide to Water Usage (Vannforskriften, Norw.). The group is primarily using dissolved inorganic nutrients, as well as phytoplankton abundance and species identification, as keys in these assessments.

The Coastal Ecosystem Project (Økokystprosjektet, Norw.) is used to monitor selected coastal regions from Oslofjorden to Lofoten. The overall goal in this project is to establish a knowledge base in order to assist and guide environmental and resource management of the coastal region. Inorganic nutrient concentrations and phytoplankton species identification is used to establish biological response scenarios, as a tool for environmental monitoring. The group is also involved in environmental monitoring and status of a number of smaller fjords associated with Oslofjorden (Fagrådet for Ytre Oslofjord, Norw.). In later years, zooplankton identification has been added to some of these investigations, and all these projects play an integral part in the overall monitoring and resource management of the fjords and the coastal region.

The Institute of Marine Research also plays an important part in the coastal monitoring of harmful algae. The results obtained from this monitoring activity are used by the Norwegian Food and Beverage Boardin their weekly “Mussel Alert” (Blåskjellvarsel, Norw.), which is part of the national monitoring of commercial shellfish production. The group also has close collaboration with the National Institute for Water Research (NIVA, Norw.) and the Foundation for Scientific and Industrial Research (SINTEF, Norw.) section SINTEF Fishery and Aquaculture, who develop weekly “Algal Reports” (Algeinfo, Norw.) as part of the monitoring of harmful algae in the coastal zone of Norway.

Assessments and advice

The group is frequently used as a sounding board to Government, in their national marine resource management planning, and we are assisting with environmental protection issues, at the same time as we are providing an extensive amount of basic research to the public domain.

Governmental and international institutions that utilize our work: