Tracing water flows using diatoms

Posted on March 26, 2010

Diatoms are single-celled algae that are ubiquitous in aquatic systems.  The sensitivity of diatom species to a wide range of environmental variables, such as light, temperature, salinity, pH, oxygen and nutrient concentrations, means that diatom communities can provide unique signatures of local conditions.  Because diatoms occur in moist terrestrial habitats as well as streams and lakes, they are promising indicators of the origins of surface runoff and the connectivity between upland, riparian and aquatic zones during flood events.  Exploratory studies in the Attert river basin inLuxembourgshow that variations in the relative importance of terrestrial and aquatic diatom species can give useful indications of the timing and significance of surface runoff in stormwater flows

Reference:  Pfister, L., McDonnell, J.J., Wrede, S., Hl´ubikov´a, D., Matgen, P., Fenicia, F., Ector, L. & Hoffmann, L.  2009.  The rivers are alive: on the potential for diatoms as a tracer of water source and hydrological connectivity  Hydrological Processes  23, 2841–2845.