Diatoms are algae that occur in almost all aquatic environments, usually in great abundance and diversity. They are very sensitive indicators of water quality, and, because their siliceous valves are well preserved in sediments they are also powerful indicators of environmental change.
Given the availability of appropriate transfer functions, they are especially suitable for reconstructing lake water chemistry, especially pH, nutrient concentration and salinity.
Consequently, diatom analysis as a technique can be used in climate change studies (especially during the Holocene) and in recent water pollution studies, especially problems of lake acidification and lake eutrophication.
The technique then has specific relevance to three research tasks set out in the "Environment and Climate" work programme. These include "The climate system in the past", "European water resources" and "The functioning of ecosystems" However, despite the power and versatility of diatom analysis the method is still relatively under-used. This is primarily because
(i) expertise is restricted to a small number of specialist laboratories that have developed appropriate transfer function; and
(ii) even for these laboratories the power of the approach is limited by the size, quality and coverage of their modern training sets needed for transfer function calibration.
Consequently, this project seeks to develop diatom analysis as a technique for environmental reconstruction by
(i) deriving new, more powerful transfer functions,
(ii)generating a "best practice" methodology for the statistical treatment of datasets and
(iii) enabling greater accessibility and standardisation of diatom methodologies within Europe and adjacent continents.
These goals will be achieved by bringing together all the relevant principal scientists in this field within Europe to
(i) intemally harmonise existing training sets for pH, total phosphorus, and salinity;
(ii) integrate these data sets into a single harmonised training set;
(iii) develop new software tools for data handling, and
(iv) produce a "Diatom Information System" that combines training-sets, electronic images of diatoms in the training sets, taxonomic guides and applications software for manipulating data and environmental reconstruction.
The Diatom Information System will be made available to the user community of scientists throughout Europe and the world on CD-ROM and via the World Wide Web.
Funding SchemeCSC - Cost-sharing contracts
40801 Aire Sur L'adour
NE1 7RU Newcastle Upon Tyne