Benthic diatoms in the Gulf of Bothnia Community analysis and diversity

University dissertation from Uppsala : Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis

Abstract: Benthic diatoms are valuable tools for biological monitoring and paleo-ecological reconstruction of past environmental conditions. This thesis aims at describing size-related properties of benthic diatoms and suggests that data assessment for community analysis can be improved by considering the importance of scale. It investigates which environmental factors structure epilithic diatom communities on the coast of the Gulf of Bothnia and identifies environmental factors correlated with phytobenthic biomass. It also contributes to the floristic knowledge of the Baltic Sea.Diatom species show large variation in size. The responses of large species (?1000 ?m3) in diatom communities to environmental factors are underestimated if solely measured as relative abundance, as is the common practice. However, relative abundance gives the best gradient resolution, as compared to surface area and biovolume, if species are counted separately in two biovolume classes. Small and large species in the same community may respond differently to the same environmental factors.To assess the principal environmental factors structuring diatom communities in the Gulf of Bothnia, 270 quantitative samples were collected from submerged stones. Sampling was carried out in spring in four areas of the Bothnian Bay, characterized by a stable north-south salinity gradient (0.4-3.3 psu), and in three areas of the Bothnian Sea which has a rather uniform salinity of ca. 5 psu. Canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) identified salinity and exposure to wave action as the principal factors structuring the diatom communities of the Bothnian Bay, whereas exposure to wave action was the principal factor in the Bothnian Sea. Measurements of relative ignition loss suggested that the cover of macroalgae, and thereby the higher abundance of epiphytic diatoms in the epilithic samples, was positively correlated with salinity in the Bothnian Bay and with water movement in the Bothnian Sea.Two new brackish water species are described, Navicula sjoersii S. Busse & Snoeijs and N. bossvikensis S. Busse & Snoeijs. The new species are compared with N. perminuta Grunow, a common brackish-water species.