Phytoplankton community structure plays a vital role in freshwater ecosystems. Besides the provision of dissolved oxygen through photosynthesis, they also form an important diet for several fish and zooplankton species. Plankton are also used as biological indicators of water quality. The objective of this paper is to provide a comprehensive review on the changes in phytoplankton community structure and their ecological functional roles. Phytoplankton are the primary producers in Lake Ecosystem. The diversity, distribution, and abundance of phytoplankton are influenced by both abiotic and biotic factors. Lake Naivasha has undergone drastic ecological changes due to the growth in human population, horticultural and floricultural developments and changes in its fisheries. Lake Naivasha is surrounded by horticultural farms that are greatly influencing its ecosystem health and the major fish species in the lake are of introduced species. These anthropogenic activities together with hydrological changes are expected to play a role in the changes in phytoplankton community structure. Previous investigations indicate that there are more than 143 species of phytoplankton and seasonal shift in phytoplankton dominance overtime between Chlorophyta, Bacillariophyta, and Cyanophyta. Due to various limnological, hydrological, and ecological changes being witnessed in the Lake, there is need for the monitoring of phytoplankton community structure. Such information would be useful in the Lake’s management and conservation.
Keywords: Water quality, Freshwater ecosystem, Primary producers, Anthropogenic activities, Conservation