Skip to content

Research at St Andrews

Temporal change in UK marine communities: trends or regime shifts?

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


M. Spencer, S. N. R. Birchenough, N. Mieszkowska, L. A. Robinson, S. D. Simpson, M. T. Burrows, E. Capasso, P. Cleall-Harding, J. Crummy, C. Duck, D. Eloire, M. Frost, A. J. Hall, S. J. Hawkins, D. G. Johns, D. W. Sims, T. J. Smyth, C. L. J. Frid

School/Research organisations


A regime shift is a large, sudden, and long-lasting change in the dynamics of an ecosystem, affecting multiple trophic levels. There are a growing number of papers that report regime shifts in marine ecosystems. However, the evidence for regime shifts is equivocal, because the methods used to detect them are not yet well developed. We have collated over 300 biological time series from seven marine regions around the UK, covering the ecosystem from phytoplankton to marine mammals. Each time series consists of annual measures of abundance for a single group of organisms over several decades. We summarised the data for each region using the first principal component, weighting either each time series or each biological component (e. g. plankton, fish, benthos) equally. We then searched for regime shifts using Rodionov's regime shift detection (RSD) method, which found regime shifts in the first principal component for all seven marine regions. However, there are consistent temporal trends in the data for six of the seven regions. Such trends violate the assumptions of RSD. Thus, the regime shifts detected by RSD in six of the seven regions are likely to be artefacts caused by temporal trends. We are therefore developing more appropriate time series models for both single populations and whole communities that will explicitly model temporal trends and should increase our ability to detect true regime shift events.



Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)10-24
Number of pages15
JournalMarine Ecology
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2011

    Research areas

  • Abundance, population trends, principal components, regime shift detection, regime shifts, time series, UK marine ecosystems, LONG-TERM CHANGES, WESTERN ENGLISH-CHANNEL, NORTH-SEA, CLIMATE-CHANGE, ECOSYSTEM, NORTHUMBERLAND, VARIABILITY, RESILIENCE, ATLANTIC, EUTROPHICATION

Discover related content
Find related publications, people, projects and more using interactive charts.

View graph of relations

Related by author

  1. Harbour Seal Decline – vital rates and drivers. Report to Scottish Government HSD2.

    Arso Civil, M., Smout, S. C., Thompson, D., Brownlow, A., Davison, N., Doeschate, M., Duck, C. D., Morris, C., Cummings, C., McConnell, B. J. & Hall, A. J., 2017, Sea Mammal Research Unit. 35 p.

    Research output: Book/ReportOther report

  2. Harbour Seal Decline - vital rates and drivers: Report to Scottish Government MMSS/002/15

    Arso Civil, M., Smout, S. C., Duck, C. D., Morris, C., Onoufriou, J., Thompson, D., Brownlow, A., Davison, N., Cummings, C., Pomeroy, P., McConnell, B. J. & Hall, A. J., Jun 2016, SMRU. 63 p.

    Research output: Book/ReportCommissioned report

  3. Region-wide changes in marine ecosystem dynamics: state-space models to distinguish trends from step changes

    Spencer, M., Mieszkowska, N., Robinson, L. A., Simpson, S. D., Burrows, M. T., Birchenough, S. N. R., Capasso, E., Cleall-Harding, P., Crummy, J., Duck, C., Eloire, D., Frost, M., Hall, A. J., Hawkins, S. J., Johns, D. G., Sims, D. W., Smyth, T. J. & Frid, C. L. J., Apr 2012, In : Global Change Biology. 18, 4, p. 1270-1281 12 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  4. Long-term patterns in harbour seal site-use and the consequences for managing protected areas

    Cordes, L. S., Duck, C. D., Mackey, B. L., Hall, A. J. & Thompson, P. M., Aug 2011, In : Animal Conservation. 14, 4, p. 430-438 9 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

  5. Morbillivirus neutralizing antibodies in Scottish grey seals (Halichoerus grypus): assessing the effects of the 1988 and 2002 PDV epizootics.

    Pomeroy, P., Hammond, JA., Hall, A. J., Lonergan, M. E., Duck, C. D., Smith, VJ. & Thompson, H., Feb 2005, In : Marine Ecology Progress Series. 287, p. 241-250 10 p.

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

ID: 242632117