The Effects of pH on a Periphyton Community in an Acidic Wetland, USA

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Abstract

Despite the importance of peatlands, the algal ecology of peatlands and the periphyton communities which are abundant in these habitats are relatively understudied. We performed an in situ manipulation of pH in an intermediate fen in northern lower Michigan in order to examine how hydrogen ion concentrations structure an epiphytic algal community. Levels of pH were manipulated in enclosures from the control level (pH = 5) to an acid treatment (pH = 4) by adding H2SO4 and a neutral treatment (pH = 7) by adding NaOH. Algal communities growing on sections of Chamaedaphne calyculata (L.) Moench stems were examined after 22 days of colonization. Chlorophyll a concentration was significantly greater only in the acid treatment (˜5.5 mg m-2) relative to the control (˜3.5 mg m-2). Taxa richness was lower in the acid treatment. The algal assemblages were dominated by filamentous green algae and a filamentous taxon, Mougeotia spp., was significantly greater in the acid treatment relative to the control. Increases in Zygnemataceae and Oedogonium spp. most likely account for the higher chlorophyll a in the acid treatment. Most treatment differences were detected in the neutral treatment, including increased abundances of Closterium polystichum Nygaard, Cosmarium sp., Peridinium inconspicuum Lemmermann, and Synedra acus Kütz. Unexpectedly, there was no strong response of the desmid community. These data can be informative in the development of algal monitoring programs in peatlands when assessment of acidification is desired.

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