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Plankton is an integral part of the food chain and can serve as an indicator of water quality. Plankton sampling allows the ecological status of surface waters to be assessed.


Phytoplankton is an important and distinctive group of organisms that occurs in a number of types of water. Phytoplankton forms the basis of the food chain and is a useful indicator of water quality. Many phytoplanktons form the first link in the food chain, converting inorganic carbons into organic compounds. Algae are food for zooplankton such as copepods. In turn this zooplankton is food for many fish.

Phytoplankton can be used to asses water quality such as for Water Framework Directive assessments. Blue-green algae (Cyanobacteria) often form large blooms and can have adverse effects for water quality, in particular many cyanobacteria release harmful toxins. Protocols for monitoring cyanobacteria provide are important for the assessment of bathing waters.

Phytobenthos (Diatoms)

Diatoms are widely abundant in the phytobenthos and are ideal as indicators for a number of environmental factors, such as pH, oxygen levels and nutrients. Diatoms are indicative of water quality and can be used in assessments such as under the Water Framework Directive.


Zooplankton includes a number of important organisms including rotifers, water fleas and copepods. Research into this group can reveal the answers to some important ecological questions, such as the predation pressure on phytoplankton. Zooplankton provides the link between primary producers and planktivorous fish and also play an important role in the predation of phytoplankton. Zooplankton are important indicators of water quality, both in terms of the predation pressure on phytoplankton and for ratings such as under the Water Framework Directive and Ebeo system.