The Marine Biological Association

Promoting marine scientific excellence and representing the marine biological community since 1884

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Western Channel Observatory

Sampling at E1, Western English Channel

The Western Channel Observatory (WCO) at Plymouth plays an important role in facilitating investigations into the understanding of biological responses to marine environmental change. The WCO’s importance is due to a number of reasons including:

  • the location of Plymouth at a biogeographic boundary between boreal northern and Lusitanian southern waters so many species benthic and pelagic) reach their distributional limits here
  • the choice of long-term monitoring stations reflecting both oceanic and coastal water properties
  • the wide range of environmental and biological parameters that have been systematically recorded
  • the long temporal scale over which these observations extend, dating from before the onset of large-scale fisheries’ exploitation
  • the fact that the records encompass several periods of temperature change including periods of warming and cooling
  • the recent rapid physical response to global warming (waters in the western channel have warmed by around 1 degree C since the mid 1980s exceeding the global and NE Atlantic rates of warming)

The Western Channel Observatory (WCO) integrates the long-term observations undertaken by the Marine Biological Association and Plymouth Marine Laboratory. Full details can be found at the WCO website at