Nutrient dynamics and successional changes in a lentic freshwater biofilm

R. Sekar*, K. V.K. Nair, V. N.R. Rao, V. P. Venugopalan

*Corresponding author for this work

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1. Colonisation, species composition, succession of microalgae and nutrient dynamics in biofilms grown under light and dark conditions were examined during the initial phases of biofilm development in a lentic freshwater environment. 2. Biofilms were developed on inert (perspex) panels under natural illuminated and experimental dark conditions and the panels were retrieved for analysis after different incubation periods. Analysed parameters included biofilm thickness, algal density, biomass, chlorophyll a, species composition, total bacterial density and nutrients such as nitrite, nitrate, phosphate and silicate. 3. Biofilm thickness, algal density, biomass, chlorophyll a and species richness were significantly higher in light-grown biofilms, compared with dark-grown biofilms. The light-grown biofilms showed a three-phased succession pattern, with an initial domination of Chlorophyceae followed by diatoms (Bacillariophyceae) and finally by cyanobacteria. Dark-grown biofilms were mostly dominated by diatoms. 4. Nutrients were invariably more concentrated in biofilms than in ambient water. Nutrient concentrations were generally higher in dark-grown biofilms except in the case of phosphate, which was more concentrated in light-grown biofilms. Significant correlations between nutrients and biofilm parameters were observed only in light-grown biofilms. 5. The N : P ratio in the biofilm matrix decreased sharply in the initial 4 days of biofilm growth; ensuing N-limitation status seemed to influence biofilm community structure. The N : P ratios showed significant positive correlations with the chlorophycean fraction in both light and dark-grown biofilms, and low N : P ratio in the older biofilms favoured cyanobacteria. Our data indicate that nutrient chemistry of biofilm matrix shapes community structure in microalgal biofilms.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1893-1907
Number of pages15
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Biofilm
  • Freshwater
  • Microalgae
  • Nutrients
  • Succession

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