Hostname: page-component-797576ffbb-vjhkx Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2023-12-05T00:41:08.742Z Has data issue: false Feature Flags: { "corePageComponentGetUserInfoFromSharedSession": true, "coreDisableEcommerce": false, "useRatesEcommerce": true } hasContentIssue false

Recovery of Antarctic stream epilithon from simulated scouring events

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 March 2015

Tyler J. Kohler*
Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, 1560 30th Street, Boulder, CO 80303, USA
Ethan Chatfield
Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, 1560 30th Street, Boulder, CO 80303, USA
Michael N. Gooseff
Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Colorado State University, 1372 Campus Delivery, Fort Collins, CO 80523, USA
John E. Barrett
Department of Biological Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, 1405 Perry Street, Blacksburg, VA 24061, USA
Diane M. McKnight
Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, University of Colorado, 1560 30th Street, Boulder, CO 80303, USA


Microbial mats are common in polar streams and often dominate benthic biomass. Climate change may be enhancing the variability of stream flows in the Antarctic, but so far studies investigating mat responses to disturbance have been limited in this region. Mat regrowth was evaluated following disturbance by experimentally scouring rocks from an ephemeral McMurdo Dry Valley stream over two summers (2001–02 and 2012–13). Mats were sampled at the beginning and resampled at the end of the flow season. In 2012–13, mats were additionally resampled mid-season along with previously undisturbed controls. In 2001–02 rocks regained 47% of chlorophyll a and 40% of ash-free dry mass by the end of the summer, while in 2012–13 rocks regrew 18% and 27%, respectively. Mat stoichiometry differed between summers, and reflected differences in biomass and discharge. Oscillatoria spp. were greatest on scoured rocks and Phormidium spp. on undisturbed rocks. Small diatoms Humidophila and Fistulifera spp. increased throughout the summer in all mats, with the latter more abundant in scoured communities. Collectively, these data suggest that mats are variable intra-annually, responsive to hydrology and require multiple summers to regrow initial biomass once lost. These results will aid the interpretation of long-term data, as well as inform Antarctic Specially Managed Area protocols.

Biological Sciences
© Antarctic Science Ltd 2015 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Alger, A.S., McKnight, D.M., Spaulding, S.A., Tate, C.M., Shupe, G.H., Welch, K.A., Edwards, R., Andrews, E.D. & House, H.R. 1997. Ecological processes in a cold desert ecosystem: the abundance and species distribution of algal mats in glacial meltwater streams in Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Occasional Paper No. 51. Boulder, CO: Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, 118 pp.Google Scholar
Biggs, B.J.F., Goring, D.G. & Nikora, V.I. 1998. Subsidy and stress responses of stream periphyton to gradients in water velocity as a function of community growth form. Journal of Phycology, 34, 598607.Google Scholar
Bonilla, S., Rautio, M. & Vincent, W.F. 2009. Phytoplankton and phytobenthos pigment strategies: implications for algal survival in the changing Arctic. Polar Biology, 32, 12931303.Google Scholar
Cullis, J.D.S., Stanish, L.F. & McKnight, D.M. 2014. Diel flow pulses drive particulate organic matter transport from microbial mats in a glacial meltwater stream in the McMurdo Dry Valleys. Water Resources Research, 50, 10.1002/2013WR014061.Google Scholar
Davey, M.C. 1993. Carbon and nitrogen dynamics in a Maritime Antarctic stream. Freshwater Biology, 30, 319330.Google Scholar
Davie, A.W., Mitrovic, S.M. & Lim, R.P. 2012. Succession and accrual of benthic algae on cobbles of an upland river following scouring. Inland Waters, 2, 89100.Google Scholar
Doran, P.T., McKay, C.P., Fountain, A.G., Nylen, T., McKnight, D.M., Jaros, C. & Barrett, J.E. 2008. Hydrologic response to extreme warm and cold summers in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, East Antarctica. Antarctic Science, 20, 10.1017/S0954102008001272.Google Scholar
Doran, P.T., Priscu, J.C., Lyons, W.B., Walsh, J.E., Fountain, A.G., McKnight, D.M., Moorhead, D.L. Virginia, R.A., Wall, D.H., Clow, G.D., Fritsen, C.H., McKay, C.P. & Parsons, A.N. 2002. Antarctic climate cooling and terrestrial ecosystem response. Nature, 415, 517520.Google Scholar
Esposito, R.M.M., Spaulding, S.A., McKnight, D.M., de Vijver, B.V., Kopalová, K., Lubinski, D., Hall, B. & Whittaker, T. 2008. Inland diatoms from the McMurdo Dry Valleys and James Ross Island, Antarctica. Botany-Botanique, 86, 13781392.Google Scholar
Fisher, S.G., Gray, L.J., Grimm, N.B. & Busch, D.E. 1982. Temporal succession in a desert stream ecosystem following flash flooding. Ecological Monographs, 52, 93110.Google Scholar
Gooseff, M.N., McKnight, D.M., Runkel, R.L. & Duff, J.H. 2004. Denitrification and hydrologic transient storage in a glacial meltwater stream, McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Limnology and Oceanography, 49, 18841895.Google Scholar
Gooseff, M.N., McKnight, D.M., Doran, P., Fountain, A.G. & Lyons, W.B. 2011. Hydrological connectivity of the landscape of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Geography Compass, 5, 666681.Google Scholar
Hawes, I. & Howard-Williams, C. 1998. Primary production processes in streams of the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Antarctic Research Series, 72, 129140.Google Scholar
Hillebrand, H., Dürselen, C., Kirschtel, D., Pollingher, U. & Zohary, T. 1999. Biovolume calculation for pelagic and benthic microalgae. Journal of Phycology, 35, 403424.Google Scholar
Howard-Williams, C., Vincent, C.L., Broady, P.A. & Vincent, W.F. 1986. Antarctic stream ecosystems: variability in environmental properties and algal community structure. Internationale Revue der Gesamten Hydrobiologie und Hydrographie, 71, 511544.Google Scholar
Komárek, J. & Anagnostidis, K. 2005. Cyanoprokaryota. 2. Teil: oscillatoriales. In Buedel, B., Krienitz, L., Gaertner, G. & Schagerl, M., eds. Süβwasserflora von mitteleuropa, Band 19/2 Heidelberg: Elsevier/Spektrum, 759 pp.Google Scholar
Konfirst, M.A., Sjunneskog, C., Scherer, R.P. & Doran, P.T. 2011. A diatom record of environmental change in Fryxell Basin, Taylor Valley, Antarctica, late Pleistocene to present. Journal of Paleolimnology, 46, 257272.Google Scholar
Kopalová, K., Veselá, J., Elster, J., Nedbalová, L., Komárek, J. & van de Vijver, B. 2012. Benthic diatoms (Bacillariophyta) from seepages and streams on James Ross Island (NW Weddell Sea, Antarctica). Plant Ecology and Evolution, 145, 190208.Google Scholar
McKnight, D.M., Niyogi, D.K., Alger, A.S., Bomblies, A., Conovitz, P.A. & Tate, C.M. 1999. Dry valley streams in Antarctica: ecosystems waiting for water. Bioscience, 49, 985995.Google Scholar
Murphy, J. & Riley, J.P. 1962. A modified single solution method for determination of phosphate in natural waters. Analytica Chimica Acta, 26, 3136.Google Scholar
Nielsen, U.N., Wall, D.H., Adams, B.J., Virginia, R.A., Ball, B.A., Gooseff, M.N. & McKnight, D.M. 2012. The ecology of pulse events: insights from an extreme climatic event in a polar desert ecosystem. Ecosphere, 3, 10.1890/ES11-00325.1.Google Scholar
O’Neill, T.A., Balks, M.R. & López-Martínez, J. 2013. Visual recovery of desert pavement surfaces following impacts from vehicle and foot traffic in the Ross Sea region of Antarctica. Antarctic Science, 25, 514530.Google Scholar
Pizarro, H. & Vincour, A. 2000. Epilithic biomass in an outflow stream at Potter Peninsula, King George Island, Antarctica. Polar Biology, 23, 851857.Google Scholar
R Core Team. 2014. R: a language and environment for statistical computing. Vienna: R Foundation for Statistical Computing. Available at: Scholar
Richard, Y., Rouault, M., Pohl, B., Crétat, J., Duclot, I., Taboulot, S., Reason, C.J.C., Macron, C. & Buiron, D. 2013. Temperature changes in the mid- and high-latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere. International Journal of Climatology, 33, 19481963.Google Scholar
Smeller, J.M. 1995. Comparison of sample preparation methods for the spectrophotometric determination of phosphorus in soil and coal fly ash. Analyst, 120, 207210.Google Scholar
Stanish, L.F., Nemergut, D.R. & McKnight, D.M. 2011. Hydrologic processes influence diatom community composition in Dry Valley streams. Journal of the North American Benthological Society, 30, 10571073.Google Scholar
Stanish, L.F., Kohler, T.J., Esposito, R.M.M., Simmons, B.L., Nielsen, U.N., Wall, D.H., Nemergut, D.R. & McKnight, D.M. 2012. Extreme streams: flow intermittency as a control on diatom communities in meltwater streams in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, 69, 14051419.Google Scholar
Steinman, A., Lamberti, G.A. & Leavitt, P.R. 1996. Biomass and pigments of benthic algae. In Hauer, F.R. & Lamberti, G.A., eds. Methods in stream ecology, 2nd ed. San Diego, CA: Academic Press, 357379.Google Scholar
Strickland, J.D.H. & Parsons, T.R. 1972. A practical handbook of seawater analysis, 2nd ed. Ottawa, ON: Fisheries Research Board of Canada Bulletin, 167 pp.Google Scholar
Strunecký, O., Komárek, J., Johansen, J., Lukešová, A. & Elster, J. 2013. Molecular and morphological criteria for revision of the genus Microcoleus (Oscillatoriales, cyanobacteria). Journal of Phycology, 49, 11671180.Google Scholar
Treonis, A.M., Wall, D.H. & Virginia, R.A. 1999. Invertebrate biodiversity in Antarctic dry valley soils and sediments. Ecosystems, 2, 482492.Google Scholar
Vincent, W.F. & Howard-Williams, C. 1986. Antarctic stream ecosystems: physiological ecology of a blue-green algal epilithon. Freshwater Biology, 16, 219233.Google Scholar
Vyverman, W., Verleyen, E., Wilmotte, A., Hodgson, D., Willems, A., Peeters, K., van de Vijver, B., de Wever, A., Leliaert, F. & Sabbe, K. 2010. Evidence for widespread endemism among Antarctic micro-organisms. Polar Science, 4, 103113.Google Scholar
Walsh, J.E. 2009. A comparison of Arctic and Antarctic climate change, present and future. Antarctic Science, 21, 179188.Google Scholar
Welch, K.A., Lyons, W.B., Whisner, C., Gardner, C.B., Gooseff, M.N., McKnight, D.M. & Priscu, J.C. 2010. Spatial variations in the geochemistry of glacial meltwater streams in the Taylor Valley, Antarctica. Antarctic Science, 22, 662672.Google Scholar
Welschmeyer, N.A. 1994. Fluorometric analysis of chlorophyll a in the presence of chlorophyll b and pheopigments. Limnology and Oceanography, 39, 19851992.Google Scholar
Wyatt, K.H., Rober, A.R., Schmidt, N. & Davison, I.R. 2014. Effects on desiccation and rewetting on the release and decomposition of dissolved organic carbon from benthic macroalgae. Freshwater Biology, 59, 407416.Google Scholar