Benthic diatoms and sulfide fluctuations: Upper basin of Pettaquamscutt River, Rhode Island

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The purpose of this study was to determine if seasonal anoxia affects the community composition and abundance of benthic diatoms in an estuarine basin. Subtidal benthic diatoms were collected monthly at 1-m water depth intervals from 2 to 7 m in an estuarine basin of Pettaquamscutt River, Rhode Island, during 1981. Water samples were collected at the same depths to measure temperature, salinity, oxygen and sulfide levels. The basin became stratified above 7 m in June and the interface between oxic and anoxic waters remained at 5 or 5·5 m until December when it rose to above 4 m. Motile, biraphid diatoms dominated on the muddy sediments and live cell counts of these were insignificant below 5·5 m. At shallower depths, abundance was seasonally bimodal. In the spring, a peak began in April at 3 m (later in the season with increasing depth) and a smaller fall peak began in October at 4 and 5 m (later at shallower depths). Highest standing crop in August was at 5·5 m when 1% PAR (Photosynthetically Active Radiation) was at 4 m. The position of the interface between oxic and anoxic waters after stratification of the water column affected both abundance and species composition of benthic diatoms within 1·5 m above it. Navicula gregaria Donkin and N. ammophila Grunow dominated the spring and summer assemblages at all depths, but after September N. gregaria vanished from the basin below 3 m. In fall and winter, distinctly different populations were present at 4-5·5 m and at 2 m. The assemblage at 4 m and below consisted of sulfide-tolerant species of Navicula. Healthy populations of Navicula ammophila Grunow, N. pseudocrassirostris Hustedt, and N. peregrina (Ehrenberg) Kützing together reached 138 × 103 cells cm-2 at less than 1% light levels and up to 88 μM sulfide. © 1985.

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Estuarine, Coastal and Shelf Science