The LifeWatch e-Infrastructure has realised the Phytoplankton Virtual Research Environment (Phyto VRE), a collaborative working environment supporting researches on phytoplankton assemblages and their relative structure, organization and ecological function.

Phytoplankton plays an important role in aquatic ecosystems because it accounts for most of global primary production and affects the biogeochemical processes, trophic dynamics and biodiversity architecture.

Phyto VRE Services

The Phyto VRE provides two tools, the atlas of taxonomy (Atlas of phytoplankton) and the atlas of morphological traits (Atlas of shapes) intend to be a reference point for marine, transitional and freshwater scientists and students interested in phytoplankton biodiversity and ecology. Both Atlases are integrated and can be easily and jointly browsed switching from taxonomic identification to morphological characterization of phytoplankton. The Atlas of phytoplankton and the Atlas of shapes include illustrative cards at hierarchical taxonomic level from phylum to genus to species. Each card consists of a detailed description of i) taxonomy, with pictures and schematic drawings, info on similar species and/or synonyms, references ii) ecological characteristics and geographical distribution of species and iii) morphological features, such as shape association, linear dimensions association and formulas for cell volume and surface.

The Phyto VRE provides access to data on taxonomy and morpho-functional traits of phytoplankton, based on LifeWatch Data Model. This Model includes the Darwin Core standard, thesauri implemented by the LifeWatch-ITA community such as PhytoTraits and other existing controlled vocabularies of relevance to LifeWatch community, all designed to harmonize scientific data. The LifeWatch Data Model gives the relevant Meta information about the dataset fields (e.g. Dataset Field Name, Description, Dataset Field DataType, Unit of measure, etc.).

The Phyto VRE provides access to the Phytoplankton Traits Computation service, which provides a user-friendly Graphical User Interface (GUI) that allow researchers to run a workflow wrapped into R code for the computation of morphological and demographic traits, such as hidden dimension, biovolume, surface area, surface-volume ratio, cell carbon content, density, carbon content and total biovolume.