, Volume 391, Issue 1-3, pp 99-111

Downstream changes in phytoplankton composition and biomass in a lowland river–lake system (Warnow River, Germany)

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To determine longitudinal changes in phytoplankton composition and biomass in the Warnow River (Germany), single water parcels were followed during their downstream transport in August and October 1996 and April 1997. In summer, the phytoplankton assemblage was dominated by centric diatom and cyanobacteria species. Stephanodiscus hantzschii, Pseudanabaena limnetica, Planktothrix agardhii and Aulacoseira granulata var. angustissima were the most frequent species. In autumn, small centric diatoms dominated the whole river course. Irrespective of the season, in the fluvial lakes of the upper river, a substantial increase of phytoplankton biomass was observed. Shallow upstream river stretches were associated with large biomass losses. In the deep, slow flowing lower regions, total biomass remained constant. Longitudinal changes in biomass reflected downstream variations in flow velocity and river morphology. Cyanobacteria, cryptophytes and diatom species were subjected to large biomass losses along fast flowing, shallow river sections, whereas chlorophytes were favoured. Diatoms and cryptophytes benefited from low flow velocity and increased water depth in the downstream river. Changes in water depth and flow velocity have been found as key factors that cause the longitudinal differences in phytoplankton composition and biomass in small rivers.