Implementing genetic methods in phytoplankton monitoring (GeMeKa)


Currently, Finnish marine phytoplankton monitoring is conducted using a standardized microscopy method. The resulting data are used for ecological status assessment and for eutrophication and food web indicators, required by the EU’s Water Framework Directive and Marine Strategy Framework Directive, as well as for long-term analyses and scientific research. The recent EU Biodiversity Strategy for 2030 highlights the importance of focusing on biodiversity in environmental monitoring. This raises the need for monitoring methods that facilitate the development and implementation of phytoplankton biodiversity indicators.

Genetic methods have the potential to increase information on biodiversity, especially of taxa which are impossible to identify microscopically (e.g. small-sized or cryptic taxa), as well as of sparsely occurring taxa, which may go unnoticed with the standardized method. Thus, combination of the genetic and microscopic methods will give a better assessment of the total phytoplankton diversity.

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Phytoplankton cells seen through a microcope. © Photo: Sirpa Lehtinen.



GeMeKa project takes the first step in applying the DNA metabarcoding method in Finnish marine phytoplankton monitoring. Our aims are:

  1. Test implementing DNA metabarcoding in Finnish marine phytoplankton monitoring.
  2. Evaluate the additional biodiversity information achieved by combining the genetic and microscopic methods.
  3. Write a manual on using the tested DNA metabarcoding method in marine phytoplankton monitoring.

The long-term aim is to increase information on phytoplankton biodiversity enabling development of a biodiversity indicator.

Researcher J. Jerney preparing genetic phytoplankton samples in the laboratory of SYKE’s research vessel R/V Aranda. © Photo: Ilkka Lastumäki.

Additional information

Project leader, Senior Research Scientist Sirpa Lehtinen, SYKE,, tel. 0295 251 353

Published 2021-05-24 at 14:50, updated 2021-07-01 at 17:11

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