A comparison of the influences of urbanization in contrasting environmental settings on stream benthic algal assemblages

American Fisheries Society Symposium
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Patterns of stream benthic algal assemblages along urbanization gradients were investigated in three metropolitan areas-Boston (BOS), Massachusetts; Birmingham (BIR), Alabama; and Salt Lake City (SLC), Utah. An index of urban intensity derived from socioeconomic, infrastructure, and land-use characteristics was used as a measure of urbanization. Of the various attributes of the algal assemblages, species composition changed along gradients of urban intensity in a more consistent manner than biomass or diversity. In urban streams, the relative abundance of pollution-tolerant species was often higher than in less affected streams. Shifts in assemblage composition were associated primarily with increased levels of conductivity, nutrients, and alterations in physical habitat. Water mineralization and nutrients were the most important determinants of assemblage composition in the BOS and SLC study areas; flow regime and grazers were key factors in the BIR study area. Species composition of algal assemblages differed significantly among geographic regions, and no particular algal taxa were found to be universal indicators of urbanization. Patterns in algal biomass and diversity along urban gradients varied among study areas, depending on local environmental conditions and habitat alteration. Biomass and diversity increased with urbanization in the BOS area, apparently because of increased nutrients, light, and flow stability in urban streams, which often are regulated by dams. Biomass and diversity decreased with urbanization in the BIR study area because of intensive fish grazing and less stable flow regime. In the SLC study area, correlations between algal biomass, diversity, and urban intensity were positive but weak. Thus, algal responses to urbanization differed considerably among the three study areas. We concluded that the wide range of responses of benthic algae to urbanization implied that tools for stream bioassessment must be region specific. ?? 2005 by the American Fisheries Society.

Additional publication details

Publication type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Title A comparison of the influences of urbanization in contrasting environmental settings on stream benthic algal assemblages
Series title American Fisheries Society Symposium
Volume 2005
Issue 47
Year Published 2005
Language English
Larger Work Type Article
Larger Work Subtype Journal Article
Larger Work Title American Fisheries Society Symposium
First page 333
Last page 359