Lead (Pb) is a metal that is non-essential to any metabolic process and, moreover, highly deleterious to life. In microbial mats - benthic stratified ecosystems - located in coastal areas, phototrophic microorganisms (algae and oxygenic phototrophic bacteria) are the primary producers and they are exposed to pollution by metals. In this paper we describe the search for bioindicators among phototrophic populations of Ebro delta microbial mats, using high-resolution microscopic techniques that we have optimized in previous studies. Confocal laser scanning microscopy coupled to a spectrofluorometric detector (CLSM-. λscan) to determine in vivo sensitivity of different cyanobacteria to lead, and scanning electron microscopy (SEM) and transmission electron microscopy (TEM), both coupled to energy dispersive X-ray microanalysis (EDX), to determine the extra- and intracellular sequestration of this metal in cells, were the techniques used for this purpose.Oscillatoria sp. PCC 7515, Chroococcus sp. PCC 9106 and Spirulina sp. PCC 6313 tested in this paper could be considered bioindicators for lead pollution, because all of these microorganisms are indigenous, have high tolerance to high concentrations of lead and are able to accumulate this metal externally in extracellular polymeric substances (EPS) and intracellularly in polyphosphate (PP) inclusions.Experiments made with microcosms demonstrated that Phormidium-like and Lyngbya-like organisms selected themselves at the highest concentrations of lead assayed.In the present study it is shown that all cyanobacteria studied (both in culture and in microcosms) present PP inclusions in their cytoplasm and that these increase in number in lead polluted cultures and microcosms. We believe that the application of these microscopic techniques open up broad prospects for future studies of metal ecotoxicity. © 2011 Elsevier B.V.