Independent and interactive effects of nutrients and grazers on benthic algal community structure

TitleIndependent and interactive effects of nutrients and grazers on benthic algal community structure
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication1994
AuthorsPan Y, Lowe RL

Algal responses to nutrients, grazing by Helicopsyche borealis, and concurrent grazing by Helicopsyche and Baetis tricaudatus were examined in recirculating stream chambers. Algal communities, dominated by Achnanthes minutissima, Cocconeis placentula, and Synedra ulna, were primarily phosphorus-limited. Algal populations responded after only 6 days of nutrient enrichment. Accumulation of algal biomass between day 3 and 6 in the P enriched treatment was resulted primarily from the growth of Synedra, an overstory rosette-like diatom colony. Such a shift in dominant growth from adnate to erect diatoms is a general phenomenon in periphyton succession in the absence of disturbance. Algal species showed differential responses to an increase of Helicopsyche densities. The accrual rate of Achnanthes continuously decreased with increasing grazer densities. The accrual rates of both Cocconeis and Synedra declined but reached plateaus between medium and high grazing densities. Baetis effectively and exclusively depressed Synedra and had no significant impact on Cocconeis. After concurrent grazing, algal communities were mainly dominated by Cocconeis (approximately 80% of total algal biovolume). The grazer's mouth structures, grazing efficiencies, and mobility may account for the differential effects of concurrent grazing on algal communities. Significant interactive effects of P and grazing by Helicopsyche indicated that both nutrient addition and grazing may exert significant impact on algal communities. However, grazing may have a much stronger effect on algae than nutrients. Our results indicate than enhancement of algal biomass by P was dampened by grazing activities and that P had no effect on algal biomass in the presence of grazers.