Distribution of Diatoms in Relation to Land Use and pH in Blackwater Coastal Plain Streams
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We compared the composition of diatom assemblages collected from New Jersey Pinelands blackwater streams draining four different land uses, including forest land, abandoned-cranberry bogs, active-cranberry bogs, and developed and upland-agricultural land. Over a 2-year period (2002–2003), we collected 132 diatom taxa at 14 stream sites. Between-year variability in the composition of stream samples was high. Most diatom species were rarely encountered and were found in low abundance. Specific conductance and pH were higher at developed/agricultural sites compared with all other site types. Neither species richness nor genus richness was significantly different between stream types. However, clear community patterns were evident, and a significant difference in species composition existed between the developed/agricultural sites and both cranberry and forest sites. The primary community gradient, represented by the first axis of a DCA ordination, was associated with variations in pH and specific conductance. Although community patterns revealed by ordinating the data collected in 2002 differed from those obtained using the 2003 data, both ordinations contrasted the developed/agricultural sites and the other sites. Acidobiontic and acidophilous diatoms characterized the dominant species at forest, abandoned-bog, and cranberry sites, whereas indifferent species dominated the developed/agricultural samples. Although our study demonstrated a relationship between the composition of diatom assemblages and watershed conditions, several factors, including taxonomic problems, the large number of diatom species, incomplete pH classifications, and year-to-year variability may limit the utility of diatom species as indicators of watershed conditions in the New Jersey Pinelands.