FCE LTER Journal Articles


Distribution of Diatoms Along Environmental Gradients in the Charlotte Harbor, Florida (USA), Estuary and Its Watershed: Implications for Bioassessment of Salinity and Nutrient Concentrations


The relative abundance of diatom species in different habitats can be used as a tool to infer prior environmental conditions and evaluate management decisions that influence habitat quality. Diatom distribution patterns were examined to characterize relationships between assemblage composition and environmental gradients in a subtropical estuarine watershed. We identified environmental correlates of diatom distribution patterns across the Charlotte Harbor, Florida, watershed; evaluated differences among three major river drainages; and determined how accurately local environmental conditions can be predicted using inference models based on diatom assemblages. Sampling locations ranged from freshwater to marine (0.1–37.2 ppt salinity) and spanned broad nutrient concentration gradients. Salinity was the predominant driver of difference among diatom assemblages across the watershed, but other environmental variables had stronger correlations with assemblages within the subregions of the three rivers and harbor. Eighteen indicator taxa were significantly affiliated with subregions. Relationships between diatom taxon distributions and salinity, distance from the harbor, total phosphorus (TP), and total nitrogen (TN) were evaluated to determine the utility of diatom assemblages to predict environmental values using a weighted averaging-regression approach. Diatom-based inferences of these variables were strong (salinity R 2 = 0.96; distance R 2 = 0.93; TN R 2 = 0.83; TP R 2 = 0.83). Diatom assemblages provide reliable estimates of environmental parameters on different spatial scales across the watershed. Because many coastal diatom taxa are ubiquitous, the diatom training sets provided here should enable diatom-based environmental reconstructions in subtropical estuaries that are being rapidly altered by land and water use changes and sea level rise.


The definitive publisher-authenticated version is available online at http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12237-013-9729-6

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation through the Florida Coastal Everglades Long-Term Ecological Research program under Cooperative Agreements #DBI-0620409 and #DEB-9910514. Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in the material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

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