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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2005

Low algal carbon content and its effect on the C : P stoichiometry of periphyton

Frost PC, Hillebrand H, Kahlert M


1. We examined the contribution of algal cells to periphytic organic carbon and assessed the effects of variable biomass composition on the carbon : phosphorus (C : P) ratio of periphyton. We compiled more than 5000 published and unpublished observations of periphytic carbon : chlorophyll a (C : Chl) ratios, an index of algal prevalence, from a variety of substrata collected from lake and low-salinity coastal habitats. In addition, we converted estimates of algal biovolume into algal C to obtain an independent measure of cellular algal carbon in periphyton. This information was used in a model relating periphyton C : P ratio to algal cellular carbon, the algal C : P ratio, and the C : P ratio of non-algal organic matter in periphyton. 2. The mean C : Chl ratio of periphyton (405) was relatively high with values in >25% of the samples exceeding 500. On average, 8.4% of total periphyton C was accounted for by C in algal cells. Only 15% of samples were found to have more than 15% periphyton C in cellular algal carbon. Our model showed a nonlinear relationship between periphytic C: P ratios and the C: P ratio of algal cells in the periphyton when non-algal organic matter was present. However, even at relatively low cellular algal C (<10% of total C), algal C: P ratios can strongly affect the C: P ratio of periphyton as a whole (i.e. algal cells plus other organic matter). 3. The high C: Chl ratios and the low biovolume-derived algal C of periphyton samples in our data set indicate that algal cells are typically a minor component of organic carbon in periphyton, However, this minor contribution would not preclude algal cellular stoichiometry from notably influencing periphyton C: P ratios


algae • biofilm • ecological stoichiometry • periphyton • phosphorus

Published in

Freshwater Biology
2005, Volume: 50, number: 11, pages: 1800-1807

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    Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
    Fish and Aquacultural Science

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