Zooplankton are part of the base of the ocean food base web being monitored in Puget Sound


Zooplankton. Copepod distantly related to shrimp and crabs. | Photo credit: NASA

Zooplankton are tiny animals that move about weakly and drift in ocean tides and often measure less than one inch in length.  The name plankton is categorized into two species: zooplankton and phytoplankton, which are plants.

Other zooplankton include microscopic animals: "(krill, sea snails, pelagic worms, etc.), the young of larger invertebrates and fish, and weak swimmers like jellyfish. Most zooplankton eat phytoplankton, and most are, in turn, eaten by larger animals (or by each other). Krill may be the most well-known type of zooplankton; they are a major component of the diet of humpback, right, and blue whales" (list provided by Oceanservice.noaa.gov).

Zooplankton feeds on phytoplankton during the night for their safety from predators who feed on them and drift deeper into the ocean during daylight hours.

"Good policy starts with good science," Jed Moore, salmon recovery biologist with the Nisqually Indian Tribe (makingwaves.psp.wa.gov).

Monitoring zooplankton as being the base of the food base in the ocean helps gauge the health of Puget Sound.  Anything in the Puget Sound is either eating zooplankton directly or eating something that has eaten zooplankton.  The zooplankton monitoring program of Puget Sound was started to learn what zooplanktons were out there, how many and where they were.

Groups all around Puget Sound regularly collect zooplankton samples that are provided to the University of Washington to estimate the counts of zooplankton.  

Groups include Tribes, state and federal agencies, NGO's, and counties who want to maintain the health of Puget Sound ecosystem.  Changes during the years helps to maintain needed information to study what keeps Puget Sound health viable.

Zooplankton is a critical food source for chinook salmon where Tribes are especially engaged in measuring available zooplankton that effects the number of fish around Puget Sound. 

Climate change watchers are concerned with what changes happen in ocean food supply and how climate change effects zooplankton numbers.

Sharing data with Canadian zooplankton data-scientists assist in understanding what changes in zooplankton are occurring.

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