The diversity and ecological significance of Protozoa
- Cite this article as:
- Vickerman, K. Biodivers Conserv (1992) 1: 334. doi:10.1007/BF00693769
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The unicellular eukaryotes are currently grouped in the kingdom Protista, together with their multicellular relatives. The inclusion of protozoa, algae and water moulds in a single taxon has resulted in nomenclatural problems, academic homelessness, and a reduction in their teaching. There are around 40 000 described protozoan protist species. Protozoa are principally grazers of bacteria, increasing mineralization and making nutrients more available to other organisms; most are aquatic, but they are also widespread animal parasites and symbionts. Their biomass, role in food chains, roles as mutualists and pathogens, and value as biomonitors are reviewed. To assess the role of protozoa in ecosystems more accurately, the current poor taxonomic standards in ecological work on protozoa must be improved. The manpower to respond to existing and new challenges in the field is declining as protozoology disappears from university courses and this problem needs to be addressed.