Extracellular enzyme activity suggests phosphorus limitation of biofilm productivity in acid mine drainage remediated streams
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Acid mine drainage (AMD) is a global consequence of historical and present day mining activities. Remediation efforts have been successful in improving water quality with elevated pH and decreased dissolved metals. In many streams, there has been chemical and biological recovery, but success is not universal. The goal of restoration should be to improve not only biological diversity but also stream function. We compared biofilm community characteristics and function from three stream categories (AMD-unimpaired, AMD-impaired, and AMD-remediated) in southeastern Ohio. Biofilms of the AMD-impaired and AMD-remediated sites had the lowest concentrations of chlorophyll a and the lowest rates of productivity and respiration. AMD-impaired streams had reduced pH and increased dissolved metal (iron, aluminum, and manganese) concentrations. Specific conductance was elevated in both the AMD-impaired and AMD-remediated streams. Water at the AMD-impacted and AMD-remediated sites had significantly lower soluble reactive phosphorus concentration compared to AMD-unimpaired sites. Biofilm extracellular enzyme activities showed an increase in biomass-specific phosphorus-acquiring enzymes in AMD-impaired and AMD-remediated sites. These results suggest phosphorus limitation is occurring in AMD-impaired and AMD-remediated streams, potentially limiting or delaying biotic recovery even though water chemistry has improved.
KeywordsAcid mine drainage Extracellular enzyme activity Phosphorus limitation Primary productivity Remediation
We would like to thank Jessica Lindner for her assistance in collecting field samples and laboratory analysis. Sites used in this study were selected with the assistance of Jen Bowman (Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs, Ohio University) and Kelly Johnson (Biological Sciences, Ohio University). Comments provided by Jared Deforest, Kelly Johnson, Brian McCarthy, and two anonymous reviewers greatly enhanced the quality of this manuscript. An Ohio University Graduate Student Senate Original Works Grant and an Ohio University Student Enhancement Award provided funding for the research. SD received assistantship support from the American Energy Power Foundation Graduate Assistantship for Watershed Assessment and Restoration awarded through the Voinovich School of Leadership and Public Affairs.
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