Common freshwater diatoms of Britain and Ireland: An interactive identification key
The UK Environment Agency has funded the development of three interactive CD-ROMs to help their staff and others to identify freshwater algae (blue-green algae, green algae and diatoms).
This, the latest CD, is an interactive multi access key/tool for the identification of diatoms of Britain and Ireland.
Diatoms are a group of algae, used for monitoring water quality and ecological status of rivers and lakes. Diatoms are one of the biological monitoring elements used in the Environment Agency (and SEPA, EHS) from 2006, as required by the Water Framework Directive for ecological monitoring and classification purposes.
This key is integral to implementing the diatom methods, used in diatom identification training programmes leading to accredited analysts, for robust reporting of diatom data.
The CD-ROMs are based on the Lucid software, developed by the University of Queensland in Australia. The key itself is multi-access, rather than dichotomous. An important benefit of this approach is that the set of attributes can be much broader than is the case for a traditional key.
For diatoms, it is possible to include information on the characteristics of “live” diatoms alongside attributes seen only in “cleaned” material, allowing the key to work in a wider range of situations than was the case in previous keys.
The key covers those diatom taxa (>300) most likely to be encountered by Environment Agency staff and others involved in routine monitoring. It also incorporates the functionality to expand the database to cover some of the other ~2,500 species of freshwater diatoms recorded from Britain and Ireland, and to take account of any future changes in diatom taxonomy.
A standalone CD-ROM version of the diatom key is now published by the UK Environment Agency and is available to purchase online for £65. (When in EA Publications website use product code SCHO0307BMHK)