, Volume 556, Issue 1, pp 7–16

A Review of Methods for Measuring the Surface Area of Stream Substrates



Surface area measurement is a common component of benthic research, especially in the quantification of chlorophyll. Multiple techniques are available and 10 are described: artificial substrates, area-specific sampling, geometric approximation, stone shape equations, foil wrapping, grids, stamps, wetted layer, particle layer, and planar area measurement. A literature search of 130 papers indicated the most common methods: using artificial substrates of known area, subsampling a specific area using a template or sampler, measuring stone dimensions and using an equation to derive area, and using the weight of foil wrapped on stones. Methods were compared using spheres of known area, smooth and rough granite stones, and plastic macrophytes. Most methods produced highly correlated measurements and accurately estimated surface area. The wetted layer method was sensitive to stone roughness and plant complexity, but may overestimate the area of complex surfaces. Replication of one method by 10 biologists indicated that individual differences in technique can affect surface area values. Factors to consider in choosing an appropriate method include ease of use, characteristics of the substrates (e.g., porosity and flexibility), fineness of scale in measuring area, and whether methods must be field-based or can include laboratory techniques.


artificial substrates planar area stone area algal sampling periphyton macrophytes substrata 


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Copyright information

© Springer 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Oklahoma Biological Survey and Department of ZoologyUniversity of OklahomaNormanUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental Science, Policy and ManagementUniversity of California-BerkeleyBerkeleyUSA

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