FCE LTER Journal Articles


Ecology and distribution of diatoms in Biscayne Bay, Florida (USA): Implications for bioassessment and paleoenvironmental studies


The spatial and temporal distribution of planktonic, sediment-associated and epiphytic diatoms among 58 sites in Biscayne Bay, Florida was examined in order to identify diatom taxa indicative of different salinity and water quality conditions, geographic locations and habitat types. Assessments were made in contrasting wet and dry seasons in order to develop robust assessment models for salinity and water quality for this region. We found that diatom assemblages differed between nearshore and offshore locations, especially during the wet season when salinity and nutrient gradients were steepest. In the dry season, habitat structure was primary determinant of diatom assemblage composition. Among a suite of physicochemical variables, water depth and sediment total phosphorus (STP) were most strongly associated with diatom assemblage composition in the dry season, while salinity and water total phosphorus (TP) were more important in the wet season. We used indicator species analysis (ISA) to identify taxa that were most abundant and frequent at nearshore and offshore locations, in planktonic, epiphytic and benthic habitats and in contrasting salinity and water quality regimes. Because surface water concentrations of salts, total phosphorus, nitrogen (TN) and organic carbon (TOC) are partly controlled by water management in this region, diatom-based models were produced to infer these variables in modern and retrospective assessments of management-driven changes. Weighted averaging (WA) and weighted averaging partial least squares (WA-PLS) regressions produced reliable estimates of salinity, TP, TN and TOC from diatoms (r2 = 0.92, 0.77, 0.77 and 0.71, respectively). Because of their sensitivity to salinity, nutrient and TOC concentrations diatom assemblages should be useful in developing protective nutrient criteria for estuaries and coastal waters of Florida.


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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