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

Variable discharge alters habitat suitability for benthic algae and cyanobacteria in a forested Mediterranean stream

Elisabet Tornés A B C and Sergi Sabater A B

A Institute of Aquatic Ecology, Faculty of Sciences, University of Girona, Campus Montilivi, E-17071, Girona, Spain.

B Catalan Institute for Water Research (ICRA), Scientific and Technologic Park of the University of Girona, E-17003, Girona, Spain.

C Corresponding author. Email:

Marine and Freshwater Research 61(4) 441-450
Submitted: 29 April 2009  Accepted: 15 September 2009   Published: 27 April 2010


Large-scale algal community patterns can be understood by studying organisation within patches. Spatial heterogeneity in light and substratum type may affect the biomass and community composition of benthic algae and cyanobacteria. We compared the effects of these factors at the species level in two reaches differing in canopy cover in a forested Mediterranean stream in winter (high water flow) and late spring (low water flow). Partial redundancy analyses revealed that the major determinants of species distribution were strongly associated with variations in measured environmental variables. Light availability, the Reynolds number and substratum type were the main factors accounting for the algal and cyanobacterial distribution. Factors affecting algal distribution varied between hydrological periods, suggesting that some species had specific requirements whereas others had a wider tolerance to environmental conditions. Our results demonstrated that the hydraulic conditions (low velocity v. high velocity) influence small-scale heterogeneity in streams, and that this affects benthic community distribution.

Additional keywords: biovolume, Chlorophyll a, multivariate analysis.


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