Nitrogen and phosphorus relationships to benthic algal biomass in temperate streams

TitleNitrogen and phosphorus relationships to benthic algal biomass in temperate streams
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2002
AuthorsDodds, WK, Smith, VH, Lohman, K
JournalCanadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Science
Pagination865 -874
Accession NumberKNZ00805

Knowledge of factors limiting benthic algal (periphyton) biomass is central to understanding energy flow in stream ecosystems and stream eutrophication. We used several data sets to determine how water column nutrients and nonnutrient factors are linked to periphytic biomass and if the ecoregion concept is applicable to nutrient–periphyton relationships. Literature values for seasonal means of biomass of periphyton, nutrient concentrations, and other stream characteristics were collected for almost 300 sampling periods from temperate streams. Data for benthic chlorophyll and nutrient concentrations from a subset of 620 stations in the United States National Stream Water-Quality Monitoring Networks were also analyzed. The greatest portion of variance in models for the mean and maximum biomass of benthic stream algae (about 40%) was explained by concentrations of total N and P. Breakpoint regression and a two-dimensional Kolmogorov–Smirnov statistical technique established significant breakpoints of about 30 µg total P·L–1 and 40 µg total N·L–1, above which mean chlorophyll values were substantially higher. Ecoregion effects on nutrient–chlorophyll relationships were weak. Ecoregion effects were cross-correlated with anthropogenic effects such as percent urban and cropland area in the watershed and population density. Thus, caution is necessary to separate anthropogenic effects from natural variation at the ecoregion level.