Using Phytoplankton to Assess the Trophic Status of German Rivers
We introduce the German multi-metric assessment method PhytoFluss for large rivers, based on phytoplankton, which can be used to implement the European Water Framework Directive (WFD). First, we examined the response of chlorophyll a concentration to total phosphorus (TP) at 220 German river sites. Rivers could be assigned to one of four groups, based on the response curves: a) streams with high specific run-off (Rhine, Danube) had the lowest yield of chlorophyll a per unit of TP, followed by b) low yield in small lowland rivers (Trave, Stepenitz), c) medium-sized lowland rivers (Spree) and large central mountain rivers (Main) had intermediate yields of chlorophyll a, and d) streams with low specific run-off (Elbe, Weser) and Baltic tributaries (Penne, Warnow) had the highest yield of chlorophyll a per unit of TP. To define the five trophic status classes of phytoplankton biomass according the WFD, the chlorophyll a boundaries were derived from these response curves at the 75% percentile level. All selected sites were pre-classified with the combined trophic boundaries for TP and chlorophyll a to create the new four taxa composition metrics: The proportions of Chlorophytes, Cyanobacteria, or Pennales and of indicator taxa were selected as indicative parameters. When applying the final PhytoFluss method to 418 years of investigation from 150 German river sites, the percentages in each status according to the bio- component phytoplankton were: high 3%, good 19%, moderate 42%, poor 30%, and bad 5%.
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