, Volume 772, Issue 1, pp 1–14 | Cite as

Quality assurance of diatom counts in Europe: towards harmonized datasets

  • Maria KahlertEmail author
  • Éva Ács
  • Salome F. P. Almeida
  • Saúl Blanco
  • Mirko Dreßler
  • Luc Ector
  • Satu Maaria Karjalainen
  • Antonia Liess
  • Adrienne Mertens
  • Jako van der Wal
  • Sirje Vilbaste
  • Petra Werner
Opinion paper


Investigations on organism ecology, biodiversity and biogeography often use large compiled datasets to extract information on species ecological preferences, which then can be used in environmental assessment. Freshwater benthic diatoms are commonly used in this context. However, it is important that the taxonomic information of the separate diatom datasets is compatible. At present, inconsistencies between diatom datasets, mainly due to differences and uncertainties in diatom identification, may misinform diatom taxon-specific ecological preferences, geographical distribution and water quality assessment. It is our opinion that these inconsistencies in diatom datasets can be reduced with quality assurance (QA), such as identification exercises. However, the results of these exercises must be well documented and well communicated; otherwise, gained knowledge may not spread inter-regionally or internationally. As a first step to reach greater consistency in QA/harmonization studies, this article (1) presents and compares information of existing diatom identification and counting QA from published and grey (non-peer reviewed) European literature to identify advantages and drawbacks of each approach; (2) summarizes taxa that can easily be misidentified according to European identification exercises; and (3) suggests a consistent design of identification exercises for diatom dataset QA.


Bioindicator Identification exercise Intercalibration Inter-laboratory comparison Ring test European Water Framework Directive 



We thank everyone who was contacted for this analysis and helped to find information: Martyn Kelly (UK, Bowburn consultancy), Bryan Kennedy (IE, EPA), Libuse Opatrilova (CZ, T. G. Masaryk Water Research Institute), Frans Kouwets (NL, Rijkswaterstaat Water, Verkeer en Leefomgeving), Gaby Verhaegen (BE, Flanders, VMM), Christine Keulen (BE, Wallonia, Service Public de Wallonie), Juliette Rosebery (FR, Irstea grpt de Bordeaux UR EABX), Matteo Galbiati & Andrea Fazzone (IT, ARPA Lombardia), Pepita Nolla (ES, PhytoLab Control) & Elisabet Tornés (ES, ICRA) and Richild Mauthner-Weber (AU, Federal Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, Environment and Water Management) (additionally to the authors). We also want to thank the organizers and participants of the diatom identification exercises who kindly provided the grey literature compiled in this study. We thank Martyn Kelly for a critical review of a first version of this manuscript, and Matteo Galbiati, Andrea Fazzone, Richild Mauthner-Weber, Juliette Rosebery, Elisabet Tornés and Gaby Verhaegen for their valuable contributions to it. We also thank the reviewers, who contributed considerably to the improvement of the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Maria Kahlert
    • 1
    Email author
  • Éva Ács
    • 2
  • Salome F. P. Almeida
    • 3
  • Saúl Blanco
    • 4
    • 5
  • Mirko Dreßler
    • 6
  • Luc Ector
    • 7
  • Satu Maaria Karjalainen
    • 8
  • Antonia Liess
    • 1
  • Adrienne Mertens
    • 9
  • Jako van der Wal
    • 10
  • Sirje Vilbaste
    • 11
  • Petra Werner
    • 12
  1. 1.Department of Aquatic Sciences and AssessmentSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden
  2. 2.Danube Research InstituteMTA Centre for Ecological ResearchBudapestHungary
  3. 3.Biology Department and GeoBioTec Research CentreUniversity of AveiroAveiroPortugal
  4. 4.Department of Biodiversity and Environmental ManagementUniversity of LeónLeónSpain
  5. 5.The Institute of the EnvironmentLeónSpain
  6. 6.Department for Botany and Botanical Garden, Institute of Bio-ScienceUniversity of RostockRostockGermany
  7. 7.Environmental Research and Innovation Department (ERIN)Luxembourg Institute of Science and Technology (LIST)BelvauxLuxembourg
  8. 8.Finnish Environment InstituteUniversity of OuluOuluFinland
  9. 9.Grontmij Nederland B.V.AmsterdamThe Netherlands
  10. 10.AQUONBredaThe Netherlands
  11. 11.Centre for LimnologyEstonian University of Life SciencesTartuEstonia
  12. 12.Diatoms as BioindicatorsBerlinGermany

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