||Climate variability plays a central role in the dynamics of marine pelagic ecosystems shaping the structure and abundance changes of plankton communities, thereby affecting energy pathways and biogeochemical fluxes in the ocean. Here we have investigated complex interactions driven a climate-hydrology-plankton system in the southern East China Sea over the period 2000 to 2012. In particular, we aimed at quantifying the influence of climate phenomena playing out in tropical (El Nino 3.4) and middle-high latitudes (East Asia Winter Monsoon, EAWM, and Pacific Decadal Oscillation, PDO) on pelagic copepods. We found that the EAWM and El Nino 3.4 showed a non-stationary and non-linear relationship with local temperature variability. In the two cases, the strength of the relationship, as indexed by the wavelet coherence analysis, decreased along with the positive phase of the PDO. Likewise, the influence of EAWM and El Nino 3.4 on copepods exhibited a non-stationary link that changed along with the PDO state. Indeed, copepods and EAWM were closely related during the positive phase, while the link copepods-El Nino 3.4 was stronger during the negative phase. Our results pointed out cascading effects from climate to plankton driven by the positive phase of the PDO through its effect on temperature conditions, and likely through a larger southward transport of nutrient-rich water masses to northern Taiwan and the Taiwan Strait. We suggest a chain of mechanisms whereby the PDO shapes interannual dynamics of pelagic copepods and highlight that these results have implications for integrative management measures, as pelagic copepods plays a prominent role in food web dynamics and for harvested fish in the East China Sea.