Desmids as key indicators for environmental change (deskey)

Fytoplankton in lakes is very sensitive to environmental conditions and due to the short life cycle, the fast prolongation and the great variety in species and shapes they can be good indicators for environmental change. Desmids are a special group which has been actively studied for determining water quality.

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Project type

  • field work
  • arctic field grant (afg)


  • terrestrial biology

Project Keywords

  • climate indicators / biospheric indicators / indicator species
  • climate indicators / terrestrial hydrosphere indicators / river/lake ice breakup
  • climate indicators / terrestrial hydrosphere indicators / river/lake ice freeze

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Desmids are mostly freshwater algae and are known as good bioindicators. Despite the fact that micro-organisms are sensitive indicators there has been an increasing need to evaluate ecosystems not only in relation to their ecological characteristics but also for their intrinsic biological quality, in the last decades. In Europe phytoplankton already is a well-known bioindicator and correlated to the water quality of lakes, ponds and rivers and used to describe the trophic status. However, there is no data about phytoplankton and especially about Desmids on Svalbard. My thesis will be about the use of arctic desmids as a bioindicator. During the fieldwork on Svalbard I propose to collect samples from 15-20 different lakes around Ny-Ålesund and in the glacier retreat of Midtre Lovénbreen. The results should show the colonisation of desmids among arctic ponds and especially the gradient of time in the glacier retreat. In addition to that, they will show a correlation to water chemistry in occurrence. An important part of Svalbard is that, compared to Alaska or Siberia, Svalbard is completely isolated which is important for the colonisation data. Furthermore, the most favourable habitats of desmids are in shallow water bodies which conforms with the lakes on Svalbard. To measure the effects of an increase of temperature and nutrients due to climate change a mesocosm experiment is further proposed. In an experimental setup the different conditions will be achieved by heating some aquaria and using fertilizer to simulate an increase in nutrients. This project is the first one about phytoplankton correlated to water chemistry to show the effect of climate change, eutrophication and colonisation. No similar work has been done before in the RIS database.

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