Using attached macroalgae to assess ecological status of British estuaries for the European Water Framework Directive

Martin Wilkinson, Paul Wood, Emma Wells, Clare Scanlan

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    40 Citations (Scopus)


    The EC Water Framework Directive requires that ecological quality be assessed in transitional waters using the abundance and species composition of macroalgae. In estuaries, which form the majority of transitional waters, species composition is not a suitable measure. This arises from two features: (i) there is a continuous, natural change in species composition along the gradient of estuarine conditions which makes it difficult to know where within an estuary the species composition should be assessed, (ii) the inner estuarine macroalgal community of mat-forming species is very tolerant to both natural and anthropogenic stress and species poor which makes it insensitive to environmental variations in terms of species composition. An alternative feature is proposed based on the extent of upstream penetration of perennial fucoid algae. This proposal is founded on a series of case studies of the changes in fucoid limits, within a number of estuaries in the British Isles, consequent upon changes in pollution status over the last three decades. This also has to take into account variations of fucoid penetration owing to natural factors such as range of salinity variation and turbidity. The abundance criterion is taken to mean the absence of macroalgal blooms or "green tides", because general abundance of species is hard to quantify meaningfully in the upper estuarine mat-forming species and in the lower estuary is subject to great variation owing to the physical variability of estuary types. © 2006 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)136-150
    Number of pages15
    JournalMarine Pollution Bulletin
    Issue number1-6
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


    • Estuaries
    • Macroalgae
    • Seaweeds
    • Water Framework Directive


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