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

How do abiotic environmental variables shape benthic diatom assemblages in subtropical streams?

Wing Ying Tsoi A B D , Wade L. Hadwen A C and F. Sheldon A
+ Author Affiliations
- Author Affiliations

A Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith School of Environment, Griffith University, Nathan campus, 170 Kessels Road, Nathan, Qld 4111, Australia.

B School of Environmental and Rural Science, University of New England, Australia.

C Griffith Climate Change Response Group, Griffith University.

D Corresponding author. Email: wtsoi@une.edu.au

Marine and Freshwater Research 68(5) 863-877 https://doi.org/10.1071/MF15388
Submitted: 14 October 2015  Accepted: 9 May 2016   Published: 18 July 2016

Abstract

Diatoms (Division Bacillariophyta) commonly dominate benthic algal communities in upland streams and are the major primary producers that sit at the base of food webs. Given their ecological importance, the aim of the present study was to investigate the spatial patterns of freshwater biofilm biomass and diatom assemblage composition in response to differences in physical and chemical variables in the Bremer, Logan and Albert catchments in south-east Queensland. Patterns in benthic diatom assemblage structure were examined during base flow conditions and the focus was on relating the spatial hierarchical interrelationships among ultimate (i.e. catchments and geology) and proximate (i.e. flow, nutrients, light, conductivity, pH and turbidity) environmental drivers. The spatial difference observed in the benthic diatom assemblages was predominantly driven by proximate environmental drivers, which, in turn, were affected by ultimate drivers. Flow played a critical role in controlling both biofilm biomass and affecting the occurrence of diatom taxa. Nutrients and light also played roles as limiting resources structuring biofilm biomass and the relative abundance of diatoms. Diatom growth form, cell size and attachment mode can be used to create a more quantitative and predictive approach to establishing relationships between diatoms and environmental gradients.

Additional keywords: biofilm biomass, diatom indicator species, growth forms.


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