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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2013

Strength and uncertainty of phytoplankton metrics for assessing eutrophication impacts in lakes

Carvalho, L.; Poikane, Sandra; Lyche-Solheim, Anne; Phillips, Geoff; Borics, G.; De Hoyos, C.; Drakare, Stina; Dudley, B.J.; Järvinen, Marko; Laplace-Treyture, C.; Maileht, Kairi; McDonald, C.; Mischke, Ute; Moe, J; Morabito, Giuseppe; Noges, Peeter; Noges, Tiina; Ott, Ingmar; Pasztaleniec,, Agnieszka; Skjelbred, Birger;
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Phytoplankton constitutes a diverse array of short-lived organisms which derive their nutrients from the water column of lakes. These features make this community the most direct and earliest indicator of the impacts of changing nutrient conditions on lake ecosystems. It also makes them particularly suitable for measuring the success of restoration measures following reductions in nutrient loads. This paper integrates a large volume of work on a number of measures, or metrics, developed for using phytoplankton to assess the ecological status of European lakes, as required for the Water Framework Directive. It assesses the indicator strength of these metrics, specifically in relation to representing the impacts of eutrophication. It also examines how these measures vary naturally at different locations within a lake, as well as between lakes, and how much variability is associated with different replicate samples, different months within a year and between years. On the basis of this analysis, three of the strongest metrics (chlorophyll-a, phytoplankton trophic index (PTI), and cyanobacterial biovolume) are recommended for use as robust measures for assessing the ecological quality of lakes in relation to nutrient-enrichment pressures and a minimum recommended sampling frequency is provided for these three metrics.


Ecological indicator; Eutrophication; Water Framework Directive (WFD); Chlorophyll; Cyanobacteria; Trophic index

Published in

2013, Volume: 704, number: 1, pages: 127-140
Publisher: SPRINGER

    SLU Authors

    Associated SLU-program

    Lakes and watercourses

    Sustainable Development Goals

    SDG6 Clean water and sanitation

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Environmental Sciences

    Publication Identifiers


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