Are diatoms a reliable and valuable bio-indicator to assess sub-tropical river ecosystem health?

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Oeding, S, Taffs, K 2015, 'Are diatoms a reliable and valuable bio-indicator to assess sub-tropical river ecosystem health?', Hydrobiologia, vol. 758, no. 1, pp. 151-169.

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The use of diatoms as bio-indicators of water quality is common in temperate regions worldwide. However, less attention has been accorded to sub-tropical regions, particularly in Australia. This study assessed the value of diatom communities to infer water quality in a sub-tropical riverine system. Epilithic diatom and water samples were collected monthly from an east Australian river. Principal components analysis showed that the Lower Catchment sites were more strongly influenced by the measured environmental variables differentiating them from the Upper Catchment sites. Canonical Correspondence Analysis showed electrical conductivity and total phosphorus strongly influenced the diatom community distribution. The study revealed diatom species that are robust bio-indicators of water quality in this sub-tropical catchment. Cocconeis placentula, C. placentula var lineata, Gomphonema spec 2 and Tabellaria flocculosa were identified as indicators of moderate water quality. Bacillaria paradoxa, Navicula cryptocephala, Navicula mutica var muticaand Achnanthes fogedii were identified as indicators of poor water quality. This study identified that diatoms are effective indicators of water quality. Further research is required to develop a diatom biological index applicable to sub-tropical east Australian river systems to improve the effectiveness of environmental monitoring and sustainable river management.