Interest in the phytoplankton community in the ICES region is increasing. This ecosystem component forms the food source for higher trophic levels, including fish, which in turn provide vital ecosystem services. Phytoplankton spatial and long-term dynamics are complex and driven by a range of factors - including eutrophication, hydrography, and climate - the impact of which might vary regionally. Moreover, some species can form harmful algal blooms (HABs) and/or become toxic, which may have devastating impacts on the ecosystem and ecosystem services.
In Europe, an understanding of phytoplankton communities is required to determine Good Environmental Status for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) and Good Ecological Status for the Water Framework Directive (WFD).
The interest in climate change as a driver of changing phytoplankton (including HAB) dynamics is increasing as EU member states and marine ecologists attempt to understand and assess the status of phytoplankton communities in their regional seas and provide advice. This advice supports sustainable fishing and aquaculture industries and fulfils monitoring and assessment requirements of the MSFD, WFD, and the EU Shellfish Hygiene Directive. However, addressing these issues requires quality-controlled long-term data and robust statistical analyses of individual and comparisons of multiple time series (using relevant spatial and temporal scales).