The independent and interactive effects of snail grazing and nutrient enrichment on structuring periphyton communities

Jane C. Marks, Rex L. Lowe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

43 Scopus citations


We investigated the independent and interactive effects of nutrient enrichment and snail grazing on structuring periphyton communities in a northern temperate lake. Nutrient releasing substrates and grazer enclosures were used to simultaneously manipulate nutrient availability and herbivory. Periphyton was allowed 18 days to accrue before grazers (Elimia livescens = Goniobasis livescens) were introduced. Addition of nitrogen and phosphorus caused a significant increase in biovolume (p < 0.001), whereas grazing had no significant effect on biovolume but resulted in a shift in species composition. Four taxa were largely responsible for the increase in biovolume on the nutrient enriched substrates: Oedogonium sp, Stigeoclonium tenue, Navicula radiosa var. radiosa and Navicula radiosa var. tenella. By the 28th day, nutrient enrichment caused a shift from a community dominated by diatoms (Bacillariophyceae) to a community dominated by green algae (Chlorophyceae). Blue green algae (Myxophyceae) maintained an equal proportion in high and low-nutrient regimes. Grazing had a more pronounced effect on altering community composition on the nutrient enriched substrates than on the unenriched substrates. Grazing caused a decrease in diversity and an increase in dominance by green algae on the nutrient enriched substrates. The relative biovolume of green algae increased from 64% to 93% on grazed substrates, due to the significant increase in relative abundance of Stigeoclonium tenue. This taxon has both prostate basal cells and erect filamentous cells. The ratio of basal: filamentous cells increased from 4.7 to 5.2 with grazing, suggesting that the heretotrichous growth form of Stigeoclonium tenue is adapted to grazing by virtue of the basal cells which are able to adhere to the substratum and resist being grazed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-17
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Nov 1989


  • community structure
  • grazing
  • nutrients
  • periphyton
  • snails

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Aquatic Science


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