Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 5038
Title: Factors controlling periphyton accrual during summer in headwater streams of southwestern British Columbia, Canada
Author: Peter M. Kiffney, J. P. Bull
Publication Year: 2000
Journal: Journal of Freshwater Ecology
Volume: 15
Issue: 3
Pages: 339-351

    In headwater coastal streams of southwestern British Columbia, previous research suggested that light limited periphyton growth and abundance of grazing invertebrates.  Logging along a reach of stream allowed us to further examine the importance of light, as well as other abiotic factors, in regulating stream periphyton and grazers.  We placed unglazed ceramic tiles in three watersheds, two of which served as controls.  In the third watershed, we placed tiles in one reach that was newly harvested, as well as in an upstream, forested reach.  Tiles were placed in streams in late June and removed weekly over a six-week period for determination of periphyton chlorophyll a and ash-free dry mass.  We also measured discharge, dissolved nitrate and phosphate, and counted the number of invertebrate grazers on each removed tile weekly.  Peak biomass, as chlorophyll a, was reached on day 29 with alga biomass at the logged site (19 μg m−2) seven to fourteen times higher than at the control sites.  Stepwise, multiple linear regression suggested that light was the single best predictor explaining 64% of the variation in peak biomass of chlorophyll a.  Although periphyton biomass on tiles was much higher in the clear-cut reach, so was fine sediment.  Inorganic mass entrapped in the periphyton mat was two to four times higher in the clearcut stream than at other sites.  Grazer abundance was not related to periphyton biomass, but was negatively related to sediment levels.  Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that grazer abundance was determined by sediment levels rather than alga biomass.


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