Large Rivers

Phytoplankton in lowland rivers may represent a major part of primary production in regulated and non-regulated sections, thereby determining the pathways of organic matter and nutrients. Potamoplankton plays a key role in determining the most important water quality variables: it is a major source of oxygen, and it generates autochthonous organic matter, easily degraded by bacteria. In severe cases of eutrophication, algal blooms may have serious consequences on water quality, increasing the cost of water treatment for drinking water supply and modulating the ecological impact of power plants.

As in lakes, phytoplankton responds to environmental changes, such as changes in land use in the watershed, increase of nutrient loading, and river management operations. LFE has an expertise on plankton dynamics in temperate lowland rivers, with a focus on the role of physical processes controlling plankton development and on biotic interactions taking place between phytoplankton and planktonic and benthic grazers. Recent research focuses on long-term changes, mainly  in the River Meuse (Belgium), and on the impact of the invasive Asian clam, Corbicula, on potamoplankton biomass, production and composition, and on subsequent alteration of ecosystem processes.


Descy, J.-P., Servais, P., Smitz, J.S., Billen, G. & Everbecq, E., 1987.- Phytoplankton biomass and production in the river Meuse (Belgium). Water Research, 21: 1557-1566.
Descy, J.-P., 1987.- Phytoplankton composition and dynamics in the river Meuse (Belgium). Arch. Hydrobiol., Suppl. 78 (2), Algological Studies: 47: 225-245.
Descy, J.-P., Everbecq E. & Smitz, J.S., 1988.-  Primary production in the river Meuse (Belgium).  Verh. Internat. Verein. Limnol., 23: 1287-1293.
Descy, J.-P., 1993. - Ecology of the phytoplankton of the River Moselle: effects of disturbances on community structure and diversity. Hydrobiologia, 249: 111-116.
Descy, J.-P., Gosselain, V. & Evrard, F. 1994. Respiration and photosynthesis of river phytoplankton. Verh. Int. Verein. Limnol., 25: 1555-1560.
Descy, J.-P., & Gosselain, V., 1994. Development and ecological importance of phytoplankton in a large lowland river (River Meuse, Belgium). Hydrobiologia, 289: 139-155.
Gosselain, V., Descy, J.-P., & E. Everbecq, 1994. The phytoplankton community of the River Meuse, Belgium: seasonal dynamics (year 1992) and the possible incidence of zooplankton grazing. Hydrobiologia, 289: 179-191.
Reynolds, C.S., Descy, J.-P. & J. Padisak, 1994. Are phytoplankton dynamics in rivers so different from those in shallow lakes? Hydrobiologia, 289: 1-7.
Reynolds, C.S. & Descy, J.-P., 1996. The production, biomass and structure of phytoplankton in large rivers. Archiv. für Hydrobiol., Beih. 113, Large Rivers 10: 161-187.
Gosselain, V., Viroux, L. & Descy, J.-P., 1998. Can a community of small-bodied grazers control phytoplankton in rivers? Freshwater Biology, 39: 9-24.
Gosselain, V. Descy, J.-P., Viroux, L., Joaquim-Justo, C., Hammer, A., Métens, A. & Schweitzer, S., 1998. Grazing by large river zooplankton : a key to summer phytoplankton decline ? The case of the Meuse and Moselle rivers in 1994 and 1995. Hydrobiologia, 369: 199-216.
Wehr, J.D. & Descy, J.-P., 1998. Use of phytoplankton in large river management. Journal of Phycology, 34: 741-749.
Gosselain V., Hamilton, P.& Descy, J.-P. 2000. Estimating phytoplankton carbon from microscopic counts: an application for riverine systems. Hydrobiologia 438: 75-90.
Everbecq, E., Gosselain, V., Viroux, L. & Descy, J.- P., 2001.  POTAMON: a dynamic model for predicting phytoplankton composition and biomass in lowland rivers. Water Research, 35: 901-912.
Descy J.-P., Leporcq B., Viroux L., François C. and Servais P., 2002  Phytoplankton production, exudation and bacterial reassimilation in the river Meuse (Belgium). Journal of Plankton Research, 24: 161-166.
Descy, J.- P. , Everbecq, E., Gosselain, V., Viroux, L. and Smitz, J.S., 2003 Modelling the impact of benthic filter-feeders composition and biomass of river plankton. Freshwater Biology, 48:, 404-417.
Descy, J.-P. (2008). Continental Atlantic Rivers. In : « Rivers of Europe », eds. Klement Tockner, Urs Uehlinger, Christopher T. Robinson, Department of Limnology, EAWAG/ETH, Switzerland, Publisher: Elsevier, London (UK)
Descy, J.-P., M. Leitao., E. Everbecq, , J.S. Smitz & J.-F. Deliège. Phytoplankton of the River Loire, France: a biodiversity and modelling study. Journal of Plankton Research, 2011; doi: 10.1093/plankt/fbr085.