The role of phytoplankton diversity metrics in shallow lake and river quality assessment

Gábor Borics, Judit Görgényi, István Grigorszky, Zsolt László-Nagy, Béla Tóthmérész, Eniko Krasznai, Gábor Várbíró

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

24 Citations (Scopus)


Ecological water quality problems are frequently connected to increment of phytoplankton productivity and overdominance of some phytoplankton species. Metrics that show monotonously increasing or decreasing tendencies along stressor gradients is recommended for ecological state assessment. Diversity metrics are influenced by various physical disturbances and show high within-year variability; thus, there is no agreement on the usefulness of these metrics as state indicators. To test the usefulness of phytoplankton diversity in ecological state assessment we investigated the productivity-diversity relationships for lakes and rivers in the Carpathian Basin (Hungary). We demonstrated that the shape of productivity-diversity relationship depends on the investigated water body type. Regarding lakes, hump-shaped relationship was found for all computed metrics. Parallel with the increase in phytoplankton productivity values, diversity metrics showed monotonously increasing tendencies in rhithral and decreasing tendencies in large potamal rivers. We found no systematic relationship in the case of small lowland rivers. Changes of diversity metrics calculated for species and functional groups showed similar tendencies within the types, only the slopes of regression lines differ each other. The use of diversity metrics as ecological state indicators should be restricted to water body types where diversity decreases or increases monotonously with phytoplankton biomass. Regarding the lakes the use of diversity metrics is not recommended for ecological state assessment. In rhithral and large potamal river assessment, application of diversity metrics should be strongly considered. We demonstrated that diversity metrics can be useful components of multimetric indices proposed to use by the Water Framework Directive.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)28-36
Number of pages9
JournalEcological Indicators
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2014


  • Contradictory trends
  • Functional diversity
  • Potamal rivers
  • Rhithral rivers
  • Species diversity

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Decision Sciences(all)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology

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