, Volume 695, Issue 1, pp 253–263 | Cite as

Effect of streamlining taxa lists on diatom-based indices: implications for intercalibrating ecological status

  • Martyn G. KellyEmail author
  • Luc Ector


Intercalibration of ecological status class boundaries between member states is a requirement of the European Union’s Water Framework Directive. Although a preliminary intercalibration of boundaries established for phytobenthos has been performed, a number of questions remain, including the extent to which variations in taxonomic concepts used in different member states influences the position of these boundaries. In this paper, the robustness of the diatom-based metrics used for intercalibration is assessed. Whilst use of genus-level identification led to a loss of ecological information, merging representatives of closely-related taxa has little effect on these metrics. Similarly, taxa that occur only rarely or never have high relative abundances in a dataset can also be ignored without the loss of ecological information. Similar results were obtained when modern taxonomic concepts were compared with concepts in use 80 years ago. Fine scale taxonomy may play a valuable role within member states; however, our results suggest that, at a continental scale, a simplified approach to diatom taxonomy should not affect intercalibration results.


Algae Monitoring Phytobenthos Rivers Streams Water Framework Directive 



Thanks to colleagues in the European Union Cross-GIG phytobenthos expert group for discussions about the ideas discussed in this paper. This work has been carried out in the framework of several national projects in Luxembourg: field work and diatom analyses were done at the Public Research Centre—Gabriel Lippmann in Luxembourg in the framework of the projects ‘Rhithron’ and ‘Potamon’ and the diatom database was elaborated during the ‘Modelecotox’ project funded by the Luxembourg National Fund for Research (FNR/01/03/03). MGK acknowledges financial support from the Scotland and Northern Ireland Fund for Environmental Research (SNIFFER) as part of the UK’s contribution to the WFD intercalibration exercise. Thanks to Isabelle Lavoie (Université du Québec) and an anonymous reviewer for helpful comments on the draft manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Bowburn ConsultancyBowburnUK
  2. 2.Department of Environment and Agro-Biotechnologies (EVA)Public Research Centre—Gabriel LippmannBelvauxLuxembourg

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