, Volume 694, Issue 1, pp 41–56 | Cite as

Shifts in taxonomical and guild composition of littoral diatom assemblages along environmental gradients

  • Steffi GottschalkEmail author
  • Maria Kahlert
Primary Research Paper


Diatoms are commonly and frequently used as water quality indicators, but only a few studies have been done to evaluate the importance of littoral, contemporary diatoms as bioindicators. This study aims to determine the main predictors of diatom community composition from 73 Swedish lakes. Canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) revealed pH, phosphate, nitrite/nitrate levels, longitude and percentage of forest in the catchment to be the most important factors of 51 environmental variables for structuring diatom assemblages. Cluster analysis separated the lakes into three groups based on the diatom community composition. Lakes belonging to these groups were characterised as: (1) acidic, nutrient-poor; (2) circumneutral, nutrient-poor and (3) alkaline, nutrient-rich, according to the results of a discriminant function analysis and dominant diatom taxa revealed by similarity percentage analysis. Ecological guilds according to growth morphology and the ability of nitrogen-fixation were assigned to all diatom taxa. All three lake groups exhibited a distinct guild composition. Nitrogen-fixing diatoms were found in nutrient-rich lakes, only. Our results indicate that taxonomical composition of littoral diatom assemblages can be applied in the assessment of nutrient and acidity status of Swedish lakes. Differences in distribution of the ecological guilds were connected to several environmental factors such as nutrients, light and grazing; their application in assessment of trophic status of lakes is therefore precarious.


Diatoms Ecological guild Lakes pH Total phosphorus 



We thank Joakim Pansar and Marie Eriksson for recommending lakes to study, all people helping with sampling and data collection, Richard K. Johnson for commenting on an earlier draft of this article and two anonymous reviewers for improving the article. Funding was provided by the Swedish Environmental Protection Agency and the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences via the Environmental Monitoring and Assessment programme (FoMA).

Supplementary material

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Supplementary material 1 (PDF 78 kb)


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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Aquatic Sciences and AssessmentSwedish University of Agricultural SciencesUppsalaSweden

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