Conteggio del Fitoplancton
A new easy-to-use computer tool for counting
and working with phytoplankton data
In the context of conservation, protection and management of aquatic resources, large data sets on phytoplankton biodiversity and abundance provide many opportunities for environmental monitoring and research, however it may be time consuming and labour intensive. ARPA Puglia has developed PhytoNumb3rs Toolkit, a user-friendly and open source application which will make the procedure easier.
The implementation of European Union Directives, particularly in Member States, has led to the development of monitoring plans for collecting metadata and information on phytoplankton. Indeed, EU policies call for the scientific community to resolve large-scale questions facing aquatic science, such as global warming, the occurrence of harmful algal bloom species, the spread of invasive species and resource depletion. All of these issues require the development of monitoring programs for collecting data and the improvement of large-scale data sharing and data integration for meta-analysis.
PhytoNumb3rs is a tool designed to support phytoplankton analysts and researchers during each step of the analysis from the compilation of the raw data sheet to the computation of abundance to the structuring of the dataset in a given format. The innovative aspect of PhytoNumb3rs is that it aims to provide guidance on microalgal analysis, including statistical procedures for the design and the optimisation of methods to analyse each single sample. In addition, we have developed a tool for microscopic analysis of phytoplankton that makes it easier to calculate cell density and to incorporate qualitative and quantitative aspects concerning data precision, bias and method sensitivity. The system simplifies these procedures, shortens the time required for analyses, and reduces potential human error. PhytoNumb3rs is a user-friendly computing system based on combined Excel® spreadsheets. PhytoNumb3rs counting toolkit is based on the Utermöhl method, standardised as UNI EN 15204.
PhytoNumb3rs enables analysts to adopt a suitable counting strategy, run the analyses and easily perform all the steps associated with conventional microscope-based phytoplankton procedures (counting, data entry, computation, and data storage in a structured database).
The use of toolkits such as PhytoNumb3rs makes it possible to improve the operability of the method by supporting the analyst step by step, from sample processing to data management and data storage. This makes it possible to obtain high-quality databases, reducing random errors generated by the operator (typing, wrong names, etc.).
The large-scale distribution of PhytoNumb3rs is advantageous because the toolkit is free-access and is developed by combining Excel files. In addition, widespread dissemination of this toolkit can improve the interoperability and integration of phytoplankton data collected by separate research and monitoring programs.
A first version of the software PhytoNumb3rs Toolkit 1.0 was released in May 2017. The software has been developed using Visual Basic Application and runs on personal computers with Windows. MacOS version is in development.
Published March, 2018
Last updated May, 2018