, Volume 704, Issue 1, pp 115–126 | Cite as

Water colour, phosphorus and alkalinity are the major determinants of the dominant phytoplankton species in European lakes

  • Kairi MailehtEmail author
  • Tiina Nõges
  • Peeter Nõges
  • Ingmar Ott
  • Ute Mischke
  • Laurence Carvalho
  • Bernard Dudley


Analysis of phytoplankton data from about 1,500 lakes in 20 European countries has revealed that two-thirds of the species that dominate lakes during the summer are dominant right across Europe. Using Canonical Correspondence Analyses, we have examined how both habitat conditions within lakes and environmental factors over broad geographical scales explained the distribution of the 151 most common summer dominant species. The distributions of these species were best explained by water colour and latitude, although alkalinity and total phosphorus also appeared to be important explanatory factors. Contrary to our original hypothesis, summer water temperatures had a negligible impact on the distribution of dominants, although, due to the restricted summer season we examined, only a limited temperature gradient was present in the dataset. Cryptophytes occurred more frequently among dominants in Northern Europe whereas cyanobacteria and dinophytes dominated more in Central and Southern Europe. Our analyses suggest that besides nutrient concentrations, other water chemistry variables, such as alkalinity and the content of humic substances, have at least as important a role in determining the distribution of the dominant phytoplankton species in European lakes.


WISER Project Geographical gradients Nutrients CCA Water temperature 



This paper is a result of the project WISER (Water bodies in Europe: Integrative Systems to assess Ecological status and Recovery) funded by the European Union under the 7th Framework Programme, Theme 6 (Environment including Climate Change) (contract No. 226273), The results are based on a database collated as part of the WISER Project. We would like to thank Birger Skjelbred, Jannicke Moe and Bernard Dudley who supported data management and extraction and especially thank all the data providers. These include (figures in brackets give the number of water bodies): Mediterranean GIG (Data manager: Caridad de Hoyos, CEDEX-CEH). Spain: Ministerio de Agricultura, Alimentación y Medio Ambiente (122), Centro de Estudios Hidrográficos (CEDEX-CEH) (46). Italy: Università degli Studi di Sassari. Dipartimento di Scienze Botaniche, Ecologiche e Geologiche (DiSBEG) (18). Portugal: Instituto da Água, I.P. (INAG) (18). Romania: Ministeriul Meduli şi Pădurilor (MMP) (10). Cyprus: Ministry of Agriculture, Natural Resources and Environment, Water Development Department (MANRE-WDD) (7). France: Institut national de recherche en sciences et rechnologies pour l′environnement et l′agriculture (IRSTEA) (6). Greece: Maria Moustaka, Aristotle University of Thessaloniki. Central-Baltic GIG (Data manager: Ute Mischke, IGB) Estonia: Estonian University of Life Sciences (EMU) gathered for the state monitoring programme supported by the Estonian Ministry of Environment. Latvia: Sandra Poikane, Latvian Environment, Geology and Meteorology Centre. Lithuania—EPA Lithuania. Denmark: National Environmental Research Institute, University of Aarhus. Belgium: Jeroen Van Wichelen, Ghent University (UGENT). Netherlands: Rijkswaterstaat (RWS). Germany: Data from German water bodies were kindly provided by the following institutions of the German Federal States: Landesamt für Umwelt, Gesundheit und Verbraucherschutz Brandenburg (LUGV; 127), Ministerium für Landwirtschaft, Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (MLUV, Seenprogramm, 65), Landesbetrieb für Hochwasserschutz und Wasserwirtschaft Sachsen-Anhalt (LHW, 5), Landesamt für Landwirtschaft, Umwelt und ländliche Räume Schleswig–Holstein (LLUR, 13), Senatsverwaltung für Gesundheit, Soziales und Verbraucherschutz Berlin (SenGUV, 12), Niedersächsische Landesbetrieb für Wasserwirtschaft, Küsten- und Naturschutz (NLWKN, Sulingen, 1). Poland: Data were provided partly by the Institute of Environmental Protection—National Research Institute. The Inspection for Environmental Protection provided data obtained within the framework of state environmental monitoring. Hungary: Environmental Protection Inspectorate for Trans-Tiszanian Region. Northern GIG (Data manager: Geoff Phillips, EA) Finland: Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE). Sweden: Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU). Norway: Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA). United Kingdom—Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Environment Agency for England & Wales (EA). Ireland: Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

Supplementary material

10750_2012_1348_MOESM1_ESM.xls (56 kb)
Electronic annex 1. Occurrence of the most dominant species in European countries (XLS 56 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  • Kairi Maileht
    • 1
    Email author
  • Tiina Nõges
    • 1
  • Peeter Nõges
    • 1
  • Ingmar Ott
    • 1
  • Ute Mischke
    • 2
  • Laurence Carvalho
    • 3
  • Bernard Dudley
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, Centre for LimnologyEstonian University of Life SciencesTartu CountyEstonia
  2. 2.Department of Shallow Lakes and Lowland RiversLeibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland FisheriesBerlinGermany
  3. 3.Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH)MidlothianUK

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