, 676:279 | Cite as

Zooplankton as indicators in lakes: a scientific-based plea for including zooplankton in the ecological quality assessment of lakes according to the European Water Framework Directive (WFD)

  • Erik JeppesenEmail author
  • Peeter Nõges
  • Thomas A. Davidson
  • Juta Haberman
  • Tiina Nõges
  • Kätlin Blank
  • Torben L. Lauridsen
  • Martin Søndergaard
  • Carl Sayer
  • Reet Laugaste
  • Liselotte S. Johansson
  • Rikke Bjerring
  • Susanne L. Amsinck


With the implementation of the EU Water Framework Directive (WFD), the member states have to classify the ecological status of surface waters following standardised procedures. It was a matter of some surprise to lake ecologists that zooplankton were not included as a biological quality element (BQE) despite their being considered to be an important and integrated component of the pelagic food web. To the best of our knowledge, the decision of omitting zooplankton is not wise, and it has resulted in the withdrawal of zooplankton from many so-far-solid monitoring programmes. Using examples from particularly Danish, Estonian, and the UK lakes, we show that zooplankton (sampled from the water and the sediment) have a strong indicator value, which cannot be covered by sampling fish and phytoplankton without a very comprehensive and costly effort. When selecting the right metrics, zooplankton are cost-efficient indicators of the trophic state and ecological quality of lakes. Moreover, they are important indicators of the success/failure of measures taken to bring the lakes to at least good ecological status. Therefore, we strongly recommend the EU to include zooplankton as a central BQE in the WFD assessments, and undertake similar regional calibration exercises to obtain relevant and robust metrics also for zooplankton as is being done at present in the cases of fish, phytoplankton, macrophytes and benthic invertebrates.


Zooplankton Eutrophication Indicator Water Framework Directive (WFD) Lakes Ecological state Water quality 



The authors thank A.M. Poulsen for editing the manuscript. This project was supported by the EU FP-7 Theme 6 projects WISER (Water bodies in Europe: Integrative Systems to assess Ecological status and Recovery, Contract No.: 226273) and REFRESH (Adaptive strategies to Mitigate the Impacts of Climate Change on European Freshwater Ecosystems, Contract No.: 244121), ‘CLEAR’ (a Villum Kann Rasmussen Centre of Excellence Project), The Research Council for Nature and Universe (272-08-0406), and by the Estonian target funding projects SF0170006s08 and SF0170011s08. TD's contribution was supported by the Marie Curie Intra European Fellowship no. 255180 (PRECISE). The authors are also grateful to Catherine Duigan from the Countryside Commission for Wales (CCW) for commissioning the work on Kenfig Pool. This is a Galathea 3 expedition article.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Erik Jeppesen
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    Email author
  • Peeter Nõges
    • 4
  • Thomas A. Davidson
    • 1
    • 5
  • Juta Haberman
    • 4
  • Tiina Nõges
    • 4
  • Kätlin Blank
    • 4
  • Torben L. Lauridsen
    • 1
    • 3
  • Martin Søndergaard
    • 1
    • 3
  • Carl Sayer
    • 5
  • Reet Laugaste
    • 4
  • Liselotte S. Johansson
    • 1
  • Rikke Bjerring
    • 1
  • Susanne L. Amsinck
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of BioscienceAarhus UniversitySilkeborgDenmark
  2. 2.Greenland Climate Research Centre (GCRC)Greenland Institute of Natural ResourcesNuukGreenland
  3. 3.Sino-Danish Centre for Education and Research (SDC)BeijingChina
  4. 4.Centre for Limnology, Institute of Agricultural and Environmental SciencesEstonian University of Life SciencesRannu, TartumaaEstonia
  5. 5.Department of Geography, Environmental Change Research CentreUniversity College LondonLondonUK

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