Marine and Freshwater Research Marine and Freshwater Research Society
Advances in the aquatic sciences
RESEARCH ARTICLE

Benthic algal biomass and assemblage changes following environmental flow releases and unregulated tributary flows downstream of a major storage

Alec W. Davie A B D and Simon M. Mitrovic A C
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Centre for Environmental Sustainability, School of Environment, University of Technology, Sydney, PO Box 123, Broadway, NSW 2007, Australia.

B Present Address: Sydney Catchment Authority, PO Box 323, Penrith, NSW 2751, Australia.

C NSW Office of Water, PO Box 3720, Parramatta, NSW 2124, Australia.

D Corresponding author. Email: alec.davie@sca.nsw.gov.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 65(12) 1059-1071 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF13225
Submitted: 26 August 2013  Accepted: 23 March 2014   Published: 1 October 2014

Abstract

A large dam reducing the magnitude of flows regulates the Severn River, Australia. Environmental flows (EFs) are designed to increase the magnitude of flow and improve ecological outcomes such as reducing filamentous algal biomass and re-setting algal succession. The effectiveness of EF releases to alter benthic algal assemblages is poorly understood. We examined benthic algal biomass and assemblage structure at two cobble-dominated riffle sites downstream of Pindari Dam, before and after two EFs. Both EFs had discharges of ~11.6 m3 s–1 (velocity of ~0.9 m s–1). Neither EF reduced benthic algal biomass, and sometimes led to increases, with density of some filamentous algae increasing (Stigeoclonium and Leptolyngbya). An unregulated flow from a tributary between the two sites increased discharge to 25.2 m3 s–1 (velocity of ~1.2 m s–1), decreasing biomass and density of filamentous algae. The similarity in flow velocities between scouring and non-scouring events suggests that thresholds may exist and/or suspended sediments carried from unregulated tributaries may contribute to reduce algal biomass. Identifying velocities needed to reduce algal biomass are useful. Accordingly, EFs with flow velocities ~1.2 m s–1 may achieve this in river cobble-dominated riffle sections dominated by filamentous algae. Lower flow velocities of <0.9 m s–1 may result in no change or an increase in filamentous algae.

Additional keywords: cobble, diatoms, filamentous, riffle, river, scour, stimulus, velocity.


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