, Volume 328, Issue 2, pp 135-146

An evaluation of periphyton community structure and function on tile and cobble substrata in experimental stream mesocosms

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Periphyton communities are an ecologically important source of information when conducting experimental stream ecotoxicological studies. Experimental stream studies often utilize unreplicated systems in order to understand dose-response phenomena. The objective of this study was to examine the robustness of such a dose-response investigation. Autotrophic and heterotrophic periphyton were evaluated in replicated control experimental streams with open recruitment (once-through flow design). Measurements of population and community structure and community function over an eleven week colonization period were made on unglazed clay tile and cobble substrata. Several measures were significantly different during the study; however, most of these were a result of initial stochastic colonization events or associated with relatively rare algal populations. During the latter half of the study autotrophic and heterotrophic community measurements on tile and cobble substrata displayed similar trends in both control streams. Population and community metrics were significantly different for approximately 5% of the 400 measurements made after the initial sampling. These results strongly suggest that the driving forces behind structuring aquatic population and community responses will be test chemical exposure and not spuriously developed stream ecosystems with individual trajectories. Recruitment in these open systems is evenly distributed across the replicated experimental stream ecosystems.