• Establishing boundary classes for the classification of UK marine waters using phytoplankton communities

      Devlin, M.; Best, M.; Coates, D.; Bresnan, E.; O'Boyle, S.; Parke, R.; Silke, J.; Cusack, C.; Skeats, J. (Elsevier, 2007)
      This paper presents a description of three of the proposed phytoplankton indices under investigation as part of a classification framework for UK and ROI marine waters. The three indices proposed for the classification process are (i) phytoplankton biomass measured as chlorophyll, (ii) the frequency of elevated phytoplankton counts measuring individual species and total cell counts and (iii) seasonal progression of phytoplankton functional groups through the year. Phytoplankton biomass is calculated by a 90th percentile measurement of chlorophyll over the growing season (April to September) compared to a predetermined reference value. Calculation of functional groups and cell counts are taken as proportional counts derived from the presence of the indicator species or group as compared to the total phytoplankton count. Initial boundary conditions for the assessment of high/good status were tested for each index. Chlorophyll reference conditions were taken from thresholds developed for previous EU directives with the setting of offshore concentrations as a reference condition. Thresholds for elevated counts of phytoplankton taxa were taken from previous EU assessments describing counts that could be impact negatively on the environment. Reference seasonal growth curves are established using phytoplankton counts from ‘‘high status’’ waterbodies. To test the preliminary boundaries for each index, a risk assessment integrating nutrient enrichment and susceptibility for coastal and transitional waters was carried out to identify WFD waterbodies in England and Wales at different levels of risk. Waterbodies assessed as having low or medium risk from nutrient enrichment were identified as type 1 and type 2 waterbodies, and waterbodies assessed as high risk were identified as type 3 waterbodies. Phytoplankton data was extracted from the risk assigned waterbodies and applied to each phytoplankton index to test the robustness of the preliminary classification ranges for each phytoplankton index.