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Discussion papers
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2019-159
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/essd-2019-159
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: data description paper 14 Oct 2019

Submitted as: data description paper | 14 Oct 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Earth System Science Data (ESSD).

PHYTOBASE: A global synthesis of open ocean phytoplankton occurrences

Damiano Righetti1, Meike Vogt1, Niklaus E. Zimmermann2, and Nicolas Gruber1 Damiano Righetti et al.
  • 1Environmental Physics, Institute of Biogeochemistry and Pollutant Dynamics, ETH Zürich, Universitätstrasse 16, 8092, Zürich, Switzerland
  • 2Dynamic Macroecology, Landscape Dynamics, Swiss Federal Research Institute WSL, 8903 Birmensdorf, Switzerland

Abstract. Marine phytoplankton are responsible for half of the global net primary production and perform multiple other ecological functions and services of the global ocean. These photosynthetic organisms comprise more than 4300 marine species, but their biogeographic patterns and the resulting species diversity are poorly known, mostly owing to severe data limitations. Here, we compile, synthesize, and harmonize marine phytoplankton occurrence records from the two largest biological occurrence archives (Ocean Biogeographic Information System; OBIS, and Global Biodiversity Information Facility; GBIF) and three recent data collections. The resulting PhytoBase data set contains over 1.36 million phytoplankton occurrence records (1.28 million at the level of species) for a total of 1711 species, spanning the principal groups of the Bacillariophyceae, Dinoflagellata, and Haptophyta as well as several other groups. This data compilation increases the amount of marine phytoplankton records available through the single largest contributing archive (OBIS) by 65 %. Data span all ocean basins, latitudes and most seasons. Analyzing the oceanic inventory of sampled phytoplankton species richness at the broadest spatial scales possible, using a resampling procedure, we find that richness tends to saturate in the pantropics at ~ 93 % of all species in our database, at ~64% in temperate waters, and at ~ 35 % in the cold Northern Hemisphere, while the Southern Hemisphere remains underexplored. We provide metadata on the cruise, research institution, depth and date of collection for each record, and we include cell-counts for 195 339 records. We strongly recommend consideration of global spatiotemporal biases in sampling intensity and varying taxonomic sampling scopes between research cruises or institutions when analyzing the occurrence database. Including such information into statistical analysis tools, such as species distribution models may serve to project the diversity, niches, and distribution of species in the contemporary and future ocean, opening the door for a quantification of macroecological phytoplankton patterns. PhytoBase can be downloaded from PANGAEA, https://doi.org/10.1594/PANGAEA.904397 (Righetti et al., 2019a).

Damiano Righetti et al.
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PHYTOBASE: A global synthesis of open ocean phytoplankton occurrences D. Righetti, M. Vogt, N. E. Zimmermann, and N. Gruber https://doi.org/10.1594/PANGAEA.904397

Damiano Righetti et al.
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Short summary
Phytoplankton are a critical basis for marine life, as they are the principal primary producers in the open ocean. Despite their ecological importance, their distribution and diversity patterns have been poorly known, mostly owing to data limitations. We harmonize phytoplankton records from public data archives, gathering more than 1.2 million records. The global dataset provides an empirical basis to characterize phytoplankton distribution and diversity patterns in current and future oceans.
Phytoplankton are a critical basis for marine life, as they are the principal primary producers...
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