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Methods for Sampling and Analyzing Wetland Algae

Abstract

Algae are a biologically diverse group of aquatic photosynthetic organisms, and are often common in wetlands. Algal species vary in their optimal environmental conditions, thus the taxonomic identity of algae present in a wetland can be used to make inferences about the environmental characteristics (e.g., water quality) of the wetland in which they are found. Algae also play important roles in the ecology of wetlands. They can be highly abundant and productive, thereby supporting wetland food webs and affecting wetland biogeochemical cycles. It is hoped that this chapter will provide a useful reference for wetland scientists and managers, and also serve to introduce students to appropriate methods for the sampling and analysis of wetland algae.

Keywords

  • Gross Primary Production
  • Algal Biomass
  • Cover Slip
  • Algal Community
  • Benthic Alga

These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Correspondence to Steven N. Francoeur .

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Student Exercises

Student Exercises

The following laboratory exercises and in-class activities are designed to build skills in several common techniques used for analysis of wetland algae, introduce students to natural patterns and variability exhibited by wetland algae, and provide experience in conducting, analyzing and interpreting data.

1.1.1 Classroom Exercises

The following activities are designed as short in-class activities.

  1. 1.

    Make a high-quality wet mount. Recall that a satisfactory wet mount can be inverted without the cover slip moving along the glass microscope slide.

  2. 2.

    Properly load a Palmer-Maloney cell and a Sedgewick-Rafter cell.

  3. 3.

    Use a stage micrometer to measure the area of your microscope’s field of view at each magnification. Calculate the volume of sample that you can observe in a single field of a Palmer-Maloney cell and a single field of a Sedgewick-Rafter cell at each magnification.

  4. 4.

    Use a stage micrometer to calibrate your microscope’s ocular micrometer at each magnification.

  5. 5.

    Distribute an algal sample to everyone in the class, and agree upon the use of one algal taxon. Measure the biovolume of one individual from that taxon and share the data. How different are the values? How many individuals need to be measured before the mean biovolume stabilizes?

1.1.2 Laboratory Exercises

The following activities are designed as laboratory exercises.

  1. 1.

    Qualitatively collect algae from a nearby wetland. Examine samples under the microscope using wet mounts, and refer to appropriate taxonomic references. How many different genera are you able to discern? Are there any patterns in the presence of taxa across the three major habitats (planktonic, metaphytic and benthic) or across different substrata (e.g., epipelic vs. epiphytic)?

  2. 2.

    Using the qualitative algal samples from Laboratory exercise #1, chemically clean the material and make diatom mounts. Examine samples under the microscope, and refer to appropriate taxonomic references. How many different diatom genera are you able to discern? Is this more or fewer than recorded using wet mounts? Are there any patterns in the presence of diatom taxa across the three major habitats (planktonic, metaphytic and benthic) or across different substrata (e.g., epipelic vs. epiphytic)?

  3. 3.

    Quantitatively collect and measure the biomass of algae in the three major habitats (planktonic, metaphytic and benthic) in a nearby wetland. On a per m2 basis, which habitat supports the most algal biomass? Do you think the differences in algal biomass between the habitat types is substantial? Why or why not?

  4. 4.

    Using the O2 technique, quantify algal production in the three major habitats (planktonic, metaphytic and benthic) in a nearby wetland. On a per m2 basis, which habitat supports the most algal production? Do you think the differences in algal production between the habitat types is substantial? Why or why not?

  5. 5.

    Construct NDS and deploy them in a nearby wetland. After 21 days, retrieve the NDS and assay algal biomass. Did nutrient availability constrain benthic algal biomass? If so, which nutrient(s) was/were limiting?

  6. 6.

    Collect a quantitative algal sample. Use a Palmer-Maloney cell or a Sedgewick-Rafter cell to measure algal cell densities. How similar are each person’s or group’s cell density values?

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Francoeur, S.N., Rier, S.T., Whorley, S.B. (2013). Methods for Sampling and Analyzing Wetland Algae. In: Anderson, J., Davis, C. (eds) Wetland Techniques. Springer, Dordrecht. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-94-007-6931-1_1

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