Marine Phytoplankton - Fact Sheet

This Plain English fact sheet outlines the work done by the EPA in monitoring phytoplankton in Ireland's marine environment.

Summary: The EPA and the Marine Institute sample phytoplankton in estuaries and coastal waters around Ireland. They carry out sampling three times during the summer and once during winter. At each location, they take water samples just below the surface and above the seabed. They use the samples to assess how much phytoplankton is in the water and what species are present.

Published: 2018

Pages: 2

Filesize: 1,902 KB

Format: pdf


Phytoplankton are tiny, free-floating plants found suspended in the world’s oceans. Their name comes from Greek and means ‘plant drifter’. They are carried along by ocean currents and are usually found floating near the surface of the water. Like all plants they need sunlight to grow.

The main sources of nutrients around Ireland’s coast are discharges from wastewater treatment plants and run off from agricultural land. Phytoplankton in the estuaries and coastal waters around Ireland are monitored by the EnvironmentalProtection Agency (EPA) and the Marine Institute. They monitor phytoplankton to assess the quality (status) of our marine environment. They must do this as part of the requirements of the European Water Framework Directive.