Assessing sediment particle-size effects on benthic algal colonisation and total carbohydrate production

Tatenda Dalu, Ross N. Cuthbert, Tiyisani L. Chavalala, P. William Froneman, Ryan J. Wasserman

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7 Citations (Scopus)


Increased sedimentation and siltation associated with anthropogenic environmental change may alter microbial biofilms and the carbohydrates they produce, with potential bottom-up effects in these ecosystems. The present study aimed to examine to what extent carbohydrate (associated with biofilm exopolymer) concentration and benthic algal biomass vary among different sediment types (size-structure categories) using a microcosm experiment conducted over a period of 28 days. Substrate treatment and time had a significant effect on the total chlorophyll-a concentrations, whilst a significant interaction was present in the case of total sediment carbohydrates. Total sediment carbohydrates did not relate significantly to chlorophyll-a concentrations overall, nor for any substrate treatments owing to a non-significant ‘chlorophyll-a × substrate’ interaction term. The diatom community characteristics across sediment sizes were unique for each treatment in our study, with unique dominant diatom taxa compositions within each sediment size class. The finest sediment particle-size (<63 μm) may be the least stable, most likely due to lower binding. We anticipate that the current study findings will lead to a better understanding of how different sediment types due to sedimentation and siltation will impact on primary productivity and the composition of diatom communities in aquatic systems.
Original languageEnglish
Article number136348
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Early online date28 Dec 2019
Publication statusPublished - 25 Mar 2020


  • Benthic algae
  • Carbohydrate
  • Chlorophyll-a
  • Exopolymer production
  • Sediment


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