Phytoplankton and littoral epilithic diatoms in high mountain lakes of the Adamello-Brenta Regional Park (Trentino, Italy) and their relation to trophic status and acidification risk

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Monica TOLOTTI *
(*) Corresponding Author:
Monica TOLOTTI | Monica.Tolotti@uibk.ac.at

Abstract

A survey of phytoplankton and littoral epilithic diatom communities was carried out on 16 high mountain lakes in the Adamello- Brenta Regional Park (NE Italy) as part of a wider research project aimed to the limnological characterisation of the seldom-studied lakes in this Alpine Region. The regional study was supplemented by the analysis of seasonal variations in two representative lakes. The principal goals of this paper are 1) to identify the most important environmental variables regulating patterns in the species composition of both phytoplankton and littoral diatoms, 2) to evaluate whether these algal communities can be used to improve trophic classification and 3) whether they can facilitate monitoring of diffuse human impacts (e.g. airborne pollution) on high altitude lakes. The relevance to monitoring is based on the acid sensitivity of all lakes studied, as indicated by the very low average alkalinity values (4-97 μeq l-1) recorded during the investigation period. Chlorophyll-a concentrations and phytoplankton biovolume recorded in the lakes were very low, with maxima in the deep-water layers and in late summer. Phytoplankton communities were dominated by flagellated algae (Chrysophyceae and Dinophyceae). Several coccal green algae were present, while planktonic diatoms were almost completely absent. Littoral diatom communities were dominated by alpine and acidophilous taxa (mainly belonging to the genera Achnanthes and Eunotia). Trophic classification based on phytoplankton and littoral diatoms, respectively, ascribed all lakes to the oligotrophic range. In both algal communities species indicative of acidified conditions were found. Multivariate analyses indicated that both the regional distribution and seasonal variation of phytoplankton are mainly driven by nutrient concentration. Diatoms are predominantly affected by geochemical characteristics including pH and mineralization level.

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