A simple biomass-only zooplankton submodel is presented, describing the dynamics of copepods and carnivorous zooplankton in the North Sea. This submodel together with the other process-oriented submodels (viz. phytoplankton dynamics, the microbial food web, benthic processes, fish dynamics and large-scale advective transport) forms a spatially resolved simulation model of the North Sea ecosystem, the European Regional Seas Ecosystem Model (ERSEM). A large set of field measurements of zooplankton abundance has been assembled against which to compare the ERSEM's performance. These data are not only internally consistent, but have also gathered at the large spatial scales appropriate to the ERSEM. In addition to the spatially resolved, monthly estimates of zooplankton abundance, several instantaneous, in situ estimates of the carbon fluxes between different components of the planktonic web in the northern North Sea are presented. Simulated dynamics are in good agreement with the data only during the mid-summer to mid-winter period. During the latter part of the winter and throughout the spring period zooplankton abundance is underpredicted and the simulated zooplankton growth rate is overpredicted during spring. The excessive decline of mesozooplankton biomass during winter may be caused by failing to capture many of the behavioural/physiological changes which zooplankton manifest during winter. It is suggested that the excessive spring growth is a consequence of a. a failure to properly distinguish between somatic and population growth, b. an inadequate representation of the small scale processes which influence feeding success, and c. an excessive spring phytoplankton bloom. The large phytoplankton bloom is, in part at least, a consequence of the excessively low simulated standing crop of omnivorous zooplankton in spring.
- North Sea