Nutrients and their duration of enrichment influence periphyton cover and biomass in rural and urban streams

  • Elsdon T
  • Limburg K
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Although it is well known that land use affects nutrient dynamics and algal growth in streams, the responses to different durations of nutrient supply are poorly understood. The associations of benthic (periphyton-dominated) biomass with concentrations of dissolved nitrogen and phosphorus in rural and urban streams in New York were quantified. Biomass was significantly greater (2-fold) in the urban compared with the rural stream, which was associated with differences in dissolved nutrients. Experimental field enrichment of nutrient concentrations and duration of exposure altered benthic periphyton. Increasing nutrients by 60–99% of ambient concentrations increased periphyton percentage cover and biomass. Periphyton abundance also increased with increasing duration of exposure to nutrients (2, 4 and 8 weeks); however, short-term pulses of nutrients (2 weeks) had no significant effect in the rural stream. These results indicate that effective management of nutrient delivery, by reducing time periods of high nutrient load, will minimise impacts to benthic environments.

Author-supplied keywords

  • Management
  • Nitrogen
  • Phosphorus
  • Urbanisation
  • Watershed

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  • Travis S. Elsdon

  • Karin E. Limburg

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