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Periphyton as an early indicator of perturbation in recreational lakes

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We looked for empirical relationships between periphyton biomass and recreational development in the Laurentian lakes of Quebec (Canada). We compared the response of periphyton (as chlorophyll a) on rocks and sediments with that of phytoplankton. Epilithon and epipelon biomass increased significantly with lake recreational development (as percentage of cleared land within a 50 m riparian strip) but was not related with open-water phosphorus concentration. In contrast, phytoplankton was related to open-water phosphorus but did not increase along the gradient of lake development. Periphyton stoichiometric composition also changed with increasing lake development. High C:P and C:N ratios were found in pristine lakes, whereas lower periphyton molar ratios, which approached the optimal stoichiometric composition for benthic microalgae, were observed in the most developed lakes. Our findings suggest that periphyton, positioned near the land–water interface, has access to land-derived nutrients before they are diluted in the open water. Therefore, periphyton on all substrata is the first community to respond to increased inputs resulting from lake recreational development. The measurement of littoral algal biomass and chemical composition may represent a better tool for early detection of lake perturbation than classic methods based on pelagic characteristics.

Nous avons recherché des relations empiriques entre la biomasse du périphyton et l’importance de la villégiature dans des lacs des Laurentides au Québec (Canada). Nous comparons la réaction du périphyton (chlorophylle a) sur les pierres et les sédiments à celle du phytoplancton. La biomasse de l’épilithon et celle de l’épipélon augmentent significativement en fonction de l’importance de la villégiature (le pourcentage de terres défrichées dans une bande de rivage de 50 m), mais non en fonction de la concentration de phosphore en eau libre. En revanche, le phytoplancton est en corrélation avec le phosphore en eau libre, mais il n’augmente pas en fonction du gradient de l’importance de la villégiature. La composition stoïchiométrique du périphyton change aussi en fonction de l’importance de la villégiature. On observe des rapports élevés de C:P et C:N dans les lacs encore sauvages, alors que les rapports molaires du périphyton sont plus bas dans la plupart des lacs à villégiature où ils s’approchent de la composition stoïchiométrique optimale pour les microalgues benthiques. Nos observations indiquent que le périphyton, qui se développe près de l’interface terre–eau, a accès aux nutriments qui proviennent du sol avant que ceux-ci ne soient dilués dans la masse d’eau libre. Ainsi, le périphyton sur tous les substrats est la première communauté à réagir aux apports accrus consécutifs au développement de la villégiature. La détermination de la biomasse et de la composition chimique des algues littorales peut donc s’avérer être un outil plus efficace pour déceler tôt la perturbation des lacs que les méthodes classiques basées sur les caractéristiques pélagiques.[Traduit par la Rédaction]

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: February 1, 2008

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  • Published continuously since 1901 (under various titles), this monthly journal is the primary publishing vehicle for the multidisciplinary field of aquatic sciences. It publishes perspectives (syntheses, critiques, and re-evaluations), discussions (comments and replies), articles, and rapid communications, relating to current research on cells, organisms, populations, ecosystems, or processes that affect aquatic systems. The journal seeks to amplify, modify, question, or redirect accumulated knowledge in the field of fisheries and aquatic science. Occasional supplements are dedicated to single topics or to proceedings of international symposia.
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