Short-period hydrological regimes override physico-chemical variables in shaping stream diatom traits, biomass and biofilm community functions

Kun Guo, Naicheng Wu*, Paraskevi Manolaki, Annette Baattrup-Pedersen, Tenna Riis

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Citations (Scopus)


Despite increasing interest in hydrological effects on riverine ecosystems, few studies have documented the impact of hydrology on biofilm community functions, and those existing have typically focused on annual-based hydrological indices. In this study, we conducted monthly samplings during a year in five lowland streams with different flow regimes and investigated the impacts of hydrological conditions and physico-chemical variables on the trait composition of diatoms growing on artificial substrates, biomass (chlorophyll a and ash free dry weight), and biofilm community functions (biochemical processes, i.e., biofilm metabolism and nutrient uptake rates measured in the laboratory). Instead of the commonly used annual-based hydrological indices, we calculated indices for shorter periods (14 and ~28 days) of the hydrological regimes. Results of species-based variation partitioning showed that short-period hydrological indices (10.10 ± 7.18%) contributed more to explain species distribution than physico-chemical variables (5.90 ± 3.83%), indicating the dominant role of hydrology in structuring the diatom community. Specifically, we found different response patterns for different guilds and size classes to the hydrological and physico-chemical variables, and our results demonstrated that species tolerating high disturbance may be more appropriate as indicators of environmental disturbance than low-tolerant species. We also found dominant effects of short-period hydrological events on biomass and biofilm community functions. Despite an overall negative effect of high flow events and flow variations on biomass and biofilm community functions, positive effects on function-biomass ratios were also observed, indicating that the effects of flow regimes on biofilm are complex. In conclusion, our study highlights the importance of including short-period hydrological conditions in studies on environmental factors shaping benthic algae. Based on our results, we recommend use of short-period hydrological conditions when investigating the effects of flow regime on biofilm community composition and functions.

Original languageEnglish
Article number140720
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 15 Nov 2020
Externally publishedYes


  • Biofilm community functions
  • Diatom traits
  • Hydrological regimes
  • Metabolism
  • Nutrient uptake rates


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