Optimal colonization and growth of marine benthic diatoms on artificial substrata: protocol for a routine use in bioindication

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Abstract

Benthic diatoms growing on hard substrata are used for their bioindication ability in freshwater quality monitoring. Artificial substrata are needed in cases where any natural substrate is present or to achieve similar sampling conditions between sites. Prior to use marine benthic diatoms for monitoring, a standardized protocol for sampling on artificial substrata must be set up. Two major types of information are required: (1) the time needed for a diatom community to be well developed and mature (climax stage); (2) the optimal growth conditions, given that the substrataum nature and texture are important parameters for the initial phase of biofilm development and can influence the future diatom assemblage. Three substrataum types were tested: frosted Plexiglass®, frosted glass, and rough enameled tiles. They were submerged for 8 weeks and sampled weekly. The experiment was conducted at five sites of distinct morphology and water chemistry, along the coastal area of Martinique Island, French West Indies. Development of diatom community was studied through biofilm dry weight, valve density, species richness, and species relative abundances. Globally, substratum type had no significant effect on any parameter. Frosted Plexiglass® was found to be the most interesting substratum because of higher valve densities and practical use. The asymptotic phase of biofilm development was encountered between 5 and 8 weeks depending on site and parameter. A compromise between community development and vandalism or loss through time was fixed to 5 weeks. This period is longer than for stream environments and is valid for tropical oligotrophic marine environments.