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Tracking the Response of Phytoplankton following Gyttja Disturbance: a Mesocosm Field Study in Myall Lakes, New South Wales, Australia

International Journal of Marine Science
"Sophia Publishing Group, Inc."
Publication Date
  • Phytoplankton
  • Sediment Disturbance
  • Mesocosm
  • Community Structure
  • Design


This study determined whether artificially mixing gyttja, an organic sediment that contains high levels of NH4, with its overlying waters, affected phytoplankton abundance and species composition in Myall Lake (NSW, Australia). A series of mesocosms was employed, with three mesocosms being designated as controls, i.e. no gyttja mixing, and three others termed impact mesocosms, i.e. in which gyttja was mixed with the overlying waters. Sampling was undertaken during a 5 day period in sediment disturbance, and phytoplankton community variables were recorded at seven intervals, i.e. just prior to disturbance and 30 minutes, 3 hours, 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5 days after gyttja disturbance. Comparisons of these community variables among treatments and over time convincingly demonstrated that overall phytoplankton abundance rose from 20,000 cells/mL just prior to disturbance to between 30,000 cells/mL and 55,000 cells/mL 2 to 4 days after gyttja mixing. This rise in abundance was attributable to a substantial increase in the cyanophycea over the same period. In contrast to the cyanophyceae, the abundance of bacillariophyceae increased sharply following disturbance from 150 to >1000 cell/mL and did not exceed 1000 cell/mL for the duration of the experiment. This supported the hypothesis that gyttja mixing does introduce benthic microalgae into the water column. Sediment disturbance caused differences in species composition in time, with cyanobacteria being mostly influenced taxa. Each period of disturbance between mesocosm have different assemblages of species.

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