, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 116-125

Predicting Epipelic Diatom Exopolymer Concentrations in Intertidal Sediments from Sediment Chlorophyll a

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Abstract

In many intertidal cohesive—sediment habitats, epipelic diatoms are the dominant microphytobenthic organisms. In such sediments, concentrations of colloidal carbohydrate [including the exopolymeric substances (EPS) produced by diatoms during motility] are closely correlated with the biomass (chlorophyll a) of epipelic diatoms. A model describing this relationship (log (conc. coll. carbo. + 1) = 1.40 + 1.02(log (chl. a conc. + 1)) was derived from published data. It was validated against published and unpublished data from 6 different estuaries, and accounted for 64.6% of the variation in sediment colloidal carbohydrate concentrations. The model was valid for intertidal habitats with cohesive sediments where epipelic diatoms constituted >50% of the microphytobenthic assemblage. In sites with noncohesive sediments, or where the microphytobenthic assemblage was dominated by other algal groups, the model was not applicable. The mean percentage of EPS in colloidal carbohydrate extracts varied between 11 and 37% for axenic cultures of epipelic diatoms (with higher values obtained during stationary phase), and between 22.7% and 24.3% for natural sediments dominated by epipelic diatoms. Assuming an EPS percentage of 25% in colloidal extracts yielded an EPS chl. a ratio of 2.62:1. Maximum rates of EPS production in diatom cultures occurred at the beginning of stationary phase (1.6–5.09 μg EPS μg−1 chl a d−1), with Nitzschia sigma having a significantly (P < 0.05) higher rate of production than N. frustulum, Navicula perminuta and Surirella ovata. Similar rates of EPS production were measured in the field. The dynamics of EPS production and loss on mudflats is discussed, with reference to the model and these production rates.

Received: 25 February 1997; Accepted: 23 May 1997