Anales del Jardín Botánico de Madrid, Vol 64, No 2 (2007)

Ecological responses of epilithic diatoms and aquatic macrophytes to fish farm pollution in a Spanish river

Julio A. Camargo
Departamento de Ecología, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de Alcalá, Spain

Alma Jiménez
Departamento de Ecología, Facultad de Biología, Universidad de Alcalá, Spain


We examined the ecological responses of epilithic diatoms and aquatic macrophytes to organic pollution and nutrient enrichment caused by a trout farm effluent in the upper Tajuña River (Guadalajara, Spain). Four sampling sites were selected over the study area: one site (S-1) placed upstream from the trout farm was used as a reference station; sampling sites S-2, S-3 and S-4 were set, respectively, about 10, 100 and 1000 metres downriver of the trout farm outlet. The river bottom was mainly stony with cobbles and pebbles at S-1, S-3 and S-4, but at S-2 it was covered by a thick layer of organic sediment. Although some macrophyte species (Apium nodiflorum, Groenlandia densa) were either absent or fewer downstream of the farm, abundance (% coverage) and diversity (number of species) for the aquatic macrophyte community as a whole increased. In contrast, epilithic diatoms were completely absent at S-2, and some species (Diploneis parma, Fragilaria ulna, Gomphonema angustatum, Nitzschia dissipata) were also absent at S-3 and S-4. Indeed, diatom diversity (number of species) was lower at S-3 and S-4 than at S-1. However, diatom abundance (cells/cm2) was higher at S-3 and S-4 than at S-1. Biological indices for diatoms (IBD, TDI) indicated a better water quality at S-1 than at S-3 and S-4, with a clear tendency to improve with distance from the fish farm. In contrast, biological indices of macrophytes (IM, IVAMG) indicated a similar water quality at S-1, S-3 and S-4, but with bad water quality at S-2. We conclude that epilithic diatoms may be more useful than aquatic macrophytes for biological monitoring of fish farm pollution in fluvial ecosystems. However, as historical and seasonal factors may be relevant to understanding the distribution, abundance and diversity of primary producers in running waters, further studies on long-term seasonal changes are needed to improve the use of macrophyte and diatom indices in assessing fish farm pollution.


Spanish river; fish farm pollution; diatom and macrophyte responses

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