Chemotaxonomic responses of autotrophic periphyton communities to nutrient additions in pools of an intermittent stream

Jordan A. Iles, Neil E. Pettit, Greg Cawthray, Pauline F. Grierson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Citation (Scopus)


The algal groups present in periphyton communities form an important base of autochthonous food webs in freshwater streams. Nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P) are key macronutrients in aquatic systems. Excess nutrients benefit some algal groups over others. We paired a nutrient-diffusing substrata limitation experiment with high performance liquid chromatography to (a) identify which nutrient(s) limit periphyton production, and (b) how the periphyton biomass and community structure changes between isolated pools of differing hydrological characteristics along an intermittent dryland stream. Unique peaks for 21 pigments were identified and matched with published values. We then produced a PERMANOVA model using pigment ratios and CHEMTAX analysis to explore changes in community structure resulting from nutrient addition. Periphyton communities in these pools were co-limited by N and P. Nitrogen additions caused the periphyton to shift from diatom- to chlorophyte-dominated community structure and benefited cyanophyta growth. Phosphorus additions reduced the relative proportion of diatoms and also resulted in an increase in pheophoribide-a, a pigment indicative of cell lysis, demonstrating a detrimental impact of P additions. Outcomes of this study show that when adding nutrient to a system there may be subtle shifts in community composition which can be telescoped up the food web regardless of the system's nutrient status.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2148-2160
Number of pages13
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number12
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


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