Lee, Alyce R. (2009-05). Response of Benthic Microalgal Community Composition at East Beach, Galveston Bay, Texas to Changes in Salinity and Nutrients. Doctoral Dissertation.
Benthic microalgal community composition on an ephemerally submerged sandflat at East Beach, Galveston Island, Texas was studied to determine the spatial and temporal variability of total biomass and community composition and its responses to experimental manipulations of two environmental factors (salinity and nutrients). Four field studies were conducted between August 2004 and February 2005. The community consisted of two major algal groups, diatoms, and cyanobacteria with two less abundant groups, green algae, and phototrophic bacteria. Spatial variability showed that patch sizes of 12 - 25 m were detected over larger scales with smaller scale (cm) patches of approximately 28 - 201 cm^-2 contained within the larger patches. The second study examined the spatio-temporal variability of BMA over a 21-month period in a 1,000 m^2 area. Sampling location and date explained a significant amount of the variability in the abundances of algal groups, which were positively correlated with the water content of the sediments and negatively correlated with temperature (sediment and water). All of the algal groups showed a seasonal pattern with higher abundances measured in the winter months and lower abundances found during the summer. BMA biomass (100 mg Chl a m^-2 or greater) maxima occurred at temperatures less than 22 degrees C and sediment water content greater than 15% (g water g sediment^-1). BMA response to different salinities and nutrient (N+P) amended sediments was assessed in four bioassays conducted over a 6-month period (Aug. 2004, Oct. 2004, Dec. 2004, and Feb. 2005). In the salinity study, the treatments that were either 100% or partially diluted with deionized water had the lowest BMA biomass over all. Chlorophyll a and fucoxanthin were significantly affected by salinity with higher abundances found in salinities that averaged 15 with a preference for salinities greater than 22. Chlorophyll b was affected by salinity with higher abundances measured in the treatments with lowest salinity (DL and DI); and was affected by the time of year. This would suggest that this algal group prefers an environment with salinity less than 2 but can easily adapt to environments with higher salinities. BMA abundances were not significantly affected by the nutrient amended sediment, but were significantly affected by stations with higher water content, and during the cooler months (Dec. 2004 and Feb. 2005).