Description: Diatoms have a long history of being used to characterize changes in environmental conditions and to identify effects of pollution in freshwater ecosystems. Recent advancements in DNA metabarcoding and bioinformatics could help expand their use in monitoring and assessment programs by providing increasingly effective ways to quantify diatom diversity in environmental samples. Here, we present an overview of research focused on establishing diatom-environment relationships and developing indicators that could be useful to monitoring and assessment programs. This includes nationwide DNA metabarcoding (rbcL) results for benthic diatoms collected from 1859 streams and rivers during the summers of 2018 and 2019 as part of the United States Environmental Protection Agency’s National Rivers and Streams Assessment. We provide an overview of ecoregional patterns and report how diatom-environment relationships and the importance of environmental variables differ among regions. Ongoing work is focused on building partnerships with states and using results to inform indicator development and applications of molecular tools to help manage environmental problems, such as nutrient pollution.

Target audience: Anyone interested in the use of diatoms for biomonitoring and ecological assessment or the integration of DNA-based methods into monitoring programs.