Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Environmental Sciences

First Advisor

Paul Bukaveckas


Algae are important components of stream food webs and often used in biomonitoring assessments. Little is known regarding the factors that limit their abundance in streams of the VA Coastal Plain. The surficial geology of the Coastal Plain is predominately sandy deposits which comprise the dominant substrate in streams of this region. In a comparative study of five streams located near the VCU Rice Center, we quantified substrate composition, light availability, and nutrient concentrations to assess their relative importance in determining benthic algal abundance. The proportion of stream area comprised of hard substrates was a significant predictor of variation in benthic algal abundance (r²=0.66). An experimental component comparing algal colonization on artificial hard substrates (tile) to the natural substrate reinforced the importance of substrate stability. Hard substrates which included gravel and aggregated clay likely provided greater stability for algal colonization relative to sand and silt deposits, resulting in lower mortality from scouring and sedimentation. Incident solar radiation was a secondary factor affecting algal abundance with shaded streams exhibiting lower benthic chlorophyll. Where substrate and light conditions were favorable, relationships between benthic algal abundance and dissolved phosphorus concentrations were observed. Seasonal fluctuations were ameliorated by high light conditions and constant disturbances at sites lacking hard substrates which kept CHLa at consistently low levels. The mean proportion of FBOM C derived from benthic algae ranged from 10 to 24%. In spite of the consistently low observed benthic algal abundance at sandy unstable Coastal Plain streams, benthic algae are an important source of benthic organic matter.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

August 2009