Spatial distributional patterns of benthic diatoms and their relation to current velocity were investigated in an unshaded cobble-bottom reach of White Creek (Washington County, NY). On 27 August 1999, diatoms were sampled and current velocity and depth were measured on a regular square sampling grid with a grain size of 0.01 m2, interval of 0.5 m, and extent of 16 m2. The relative abundance of the 18 common diatom species enumerated in the 81 samples was subjected to detrended correspondence analysis (DCA). The first axis (DCA1) explained 51% of the variance in diatom data and separated the samples according to current regimes. The spatial autocorrelation of DCA1 sample scores in deposition and erosion regions of White Creek was determined by Moran's I statistic to indicate patch size. In White Creek the patch length of all diatom communities was more than 3.1 m, whereas the patch width was 1 m in the deposition region and 0.5 m in the erosion region. There were 5 dominant diatom taxa, Achnanthes minutissima Ku??tz. et vars, Fragilaria capucina Dezmazie??res et vars, F. crotonensis Kitt., Diatoma vulgaris Bory, and Synedra ulna (Nitz.) Ehr. et vars. The patch length of the dominant species varied from 1 to more than 4.1 m, whereas the patch width, if defined, was 0.5 m. Achnanthes minutissima and F. capucina, the two diatom species with the highest relative abundance, displayed spatially structured patches of low abundance and comparatively random patches of high abundance, suggesting broad scale abiotic control of species performance in low abundance regions and finer scale biotic control of high abundance areas. Another objective of this study was to test the hypothesis that higher current velocities, which generally impede immigration, would increase randomness and complexity (i.e. homogeneity of diatom distributional patterns). The spatial complexity in low versus high velocity transects was determined by calculating the respective fractal dimension (D) of DCA1 scores. D of DCA1 was higher in the higher current velocity transects, suggesting that spatial complexity and homogeneity of diatom communities increased in faster currents. Partial canonical correspondence analysis was conducted on diatom, environmental, and spatial data to assess how much of the variance in species distribution could be attributed to environmental (current velocity and depth) versus spatial factors. The variance of species data, explained by the environment (exclusively current velocity), was 38%; whereas space alone contributed only 10%, indicating that 1) current velocity was the major factor that controlled diatom distribution in streams and 2) there were other spatially dependent variables, most likely biotic, but their role in shaping diatom communities was minor.
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Spatial paradigms of lotic diatom distribution: A landscape ecology perspective