Benthic diatoms as indicators of eutrophication in tropical streams

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Diatoms are frequently used as indicators of eutrophication in temperate systems, but little is known about their application to impacted African tropical systems. Five streams located within Gombe Stream National Park and five streams supporting human settlements draining into Lake Tanganyika, East Africa, were investigated for species composition, richness and diversity of epilithic algae. In addition, a trophic diatom index (TDI) developed for monitoring European rivers was applied to these tropical systems. 54 specific and infraspecific diatom taxa representing 20 genera were identified for all sites with Achnanthes s.l., Gomphonema and Navicula s.l. being the most common genera. Species richness varied between 10 and 21 in disturbed streams and 13 and 19 in undisturbed streams. Nutrients were significantly enriched in streams draining the deforested watersheds but indices of diversity and evenness (Shannon H, J and Simpson-Yule D, E) did not show any significant differences between streams in forested and deforested watersheds. Significant differences were observed between pooled data for the TDI between forested and deforested watersheds. Analysis of percent pollution tolerant diatom taxa indicates that organic pollution of streams in deforested watersheds may be contributing to eutrophication. This study shows that African diatoms, cosmopolitan or resembling well-known North American and European taxa, allows for trophic indices tailored to the autecological preferences of species to be applied to new regions, although intensive studies on these African taxa will lead to more accurate results. Measures of species-richness and diversity, historically used to describe the state of an ecosystem, may not be suitable to evaluate streams which are not grossly polluted. © 2006 Springer.

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