Original paper

Benthic diatoms as indicators of acidity in streams

Andrén, Cecilia; Jarlman, Amelie


As acidification changes from chronic to more episodic in nature, study focus shifts from lakes, where the basin moderates acidity, to streams where acid episodes occur. To assess the effects of acid stress, several macroinvertebrate indices have been used in Scandinavia and elsewhere, based on the presence or absence of species. Benthic diatoms are strongly linked to water quality with small spatial influence, and display a broad spectrum of species. An acidity index for streams based on benthic diatoms could refine assessment resolution, which is required as the acidification declines. During the autumns of 2004 and 2005, 99 benthic diatom samples were collected from 75 humic streams in Sweden that were monitored by monthly water sampling. The relationships between benthic diatoms and measured environmental variables were explored using canonical correspondence analysis. Acidity was the principal factor influencing the diatoms, with the highest eigenvalues noted for pH, alkalinity, and inorganic aluminium. Several weighted averaging (WA) models were developed to infer stream pH, both using 50 streams from 2004 as a calibration dataset cross-validated with 49 streams from 2005 as an independent dataset, and by modeling all 99 streams. The predictive power of the WA models was good. The model with all streams showed a high correlation for mean pH (r2 = 0.85) and minimum pH (r2 = 0.74) values. An acidity index for diatoms, ACID, was proposed. The correlations to mean and minimum pH values were strong, at r2 = 0.85 and 0.77, respectively. Our results confirmed a strong link between benthic diatoms and water quality, particularly acidity. By employing different approaches we demonstrated that diatoms are excellent acidity indicators. The proposed ACID index can be used to assess the acidity state of a stream. ACID is more convenient to use than a WA model for pH and has equal precision.


acidity indexbacillariophyceaeccalotic watersperiphytonphrunning watersweighted averaging modelswa