Periphyton Biomass and Community Compositions as Indicators of Water Quality in the Lower Grand River Hydrologic Unit, Missouri and Iowa, 2011–18

Scientific Investigations Report 2021-5012
Prepared in cooperation with the Missouri Department of Natural Resources



Biological communities, including periphyton, are continuously affected by chemical, physical, and other biological factors, and the health of these communities can reflect the overall health of the aquatic system. A diverse community is more robust, and communities with lower richness and evenness often indicate a degraded community dominated by few taxa tolerant to the degraded conditions, which makes the community more susceptible to ecological changes. Water-quality nutrient samples were collected at sites in the Lower Grand River during 2010 through 2018 and periphyton sample collections began in 2011 to describe the periphyton community and overall ecological health. Nutrient sample concentrations were generally elevated at these sites, which can lead to eutrophication, excessive plant and algae growth, drinking-water taste and odor problems, low dissolved-oxygen concentrations, and harmful algal blooms. Concentrations of total nitrogen were greater than acceptable as described by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and total phosphorus concentrations were greater than reference concentrations. Periphyton communities were dominated by taxa that are tolerant to or indicative of elevated nutrient concentrations; and nuisance algae, or harmful algal bloom producers, were identified at all sites, except one. The presence of these producers indicates that harmful algal blooms may have high potential during optimal conditions at these sites. Chlorophyll concentrations that exceed 100 milligrams per square meter are considered nuisance and were determined in 11 percent of the samples and at every site during September 2012. Samples were collected during low-flow conditions when nutrient concentrations are generally lower than during high-flow and runoff conditions. Elevated nutrient concentrations during low-flow conditions indicate nutrient concentrations are likely elevated throughout most of the year. Agriculture is the primary land use within the Lower Grand River and is likely a primary source of nutrients and sediments. Conservation practices intended to reduce nutrient loss from agriculture fields have increased because of the Mississippi River Basin Healthy Watersheds Initiative and will potentially increase the ecological, chemical, and physical health of these waterways.

Suggested Citation

Krempa, H.M., 2021, Periphyton biomass and community compositions as indicators of water quality in the Lower Grand River hydrologic unit, Missouri and Iowa, 2011–18: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2021–5012, 51 p.,

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Data Collection and Analysis
  • Water-Quality Sample Concentrations
  • Periphyton Biomass and Community Structure
  • Summary
  • References Cited
Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Periphyton biomass and community compositions as indicators of water quality in the Lower Grand River hydrologic unit, Missouri and Iowa, 2011–18
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2021-5012
DOI 10.3133/sir20215012
Year Published 2021
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) Mississippi Water Science Center, Central Midwest Water Science Center
Description Report: vi, 51 p.; Data Release; Dataset
Country United States
State Iowa, Missouri
Other Geospatial Lower Grand River
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Google Analytic Metrics Metrics page
Additional publication details