Amphipods are some of the most important invertebrate organisms in water and perform vital ecological functions, such as acting as a food source for fish or breaking down leaves. They have a range of different requirements in terms of habitat and water quality and could therefore play a much more effective role in waterbody monitoring than they do currently.
Help from many sources
Astonishingly little was known about amphipods until recently – partly because of their size, but also because some of the creatures live in careful hiding. “It’s surprising that there are still big gaps in our knowledge of biodiversity, even in Central Europe,” says Florian Altermatt, “which is one of the reasons why I launched the project eight years ago.” Consequently, the scientists benefit greatly from the help of cave researchers and water suppliers with the project Amphipod.CH. “We expect that a few more species will be added to the list in the near future,” says Dr Roman Alther, who plays a key role in the project as a researcher at Eawag’s Department of Aquatic Ecology. However, Alther is also aware that some of the species are already under threat – and explains that the project is all the more important because it provides an essential basis for recognising any changes. As Alther says in the short video: “We can only protect what we know about.”