Crevices as refugia for stream diatoms: Effect of crevice size on abraded substrates

Bergey, Elizabeth A.

Limnol. Oceanogr., 44(6), 1999, 1522-1529 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.1999.44.6.1522

ABSTRACT: This study explored the mechanisms by which crevices act as refugia for small algae during abrasive disturbances. Four substrates with different crevice features were subjected to three levels of abrasion in a stream-based experiment. Substrates were sand-grain caddisfly cases and three glass rod substrates that mimicked caddisfly cases in size and shape, as well as forming a gradient of larger crevices (i.e., smooth with no crevices, sanded with shallow pits, and scratched with deeper grooves). Substrates were subjected to no, low, or high abrasion levels during 18 d of incubation by pulling substrates through a sand-gravel mixture in floating enclosures that housed the experiment. Diatom density, relative biovolume, location in crevices, detritus accumulation, and filamentous algal density were compared among substrate types and abrasion levels. Across all abrasion levels, diatom and filamentous algal densities were higher on caddisfly cases than on all three glass rod substrates. Although abrasion greatly reduced overall diatom density, diatoms within crevices were largely protected. Crevice size influenced diatom size and composition. The small crevices of sanded rods contained primarily small diatoms of a single species (Achnanthidium minutissimum), whereas the larger crevices of scratched rods and caddisfly cases contained a greater range of diatom size and, consequently, greater species diversity. Detritus accumulated in all crevices, and accumulation increased with level of abrasion. Diatom biovolume decreased and location in crevices increased with the level of abrasion on the less textured smooth and sanded glass rods. Abrasion level had little effect on algal assemblages on caddisfly cases. This study demonstrates that crevices can be important refugia from abrasive disturbances, and that the size of crevices relative to organismal size can influence the protective value of crevices.

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