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Free Content Effects of Copper on the Dominance and the Diversity of Algae: Controlled Ecosystem Pollution Experiment

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Two experiments were performed in which copper was added to plastic experimental enclosures (CEEs) moored in Saanich Inlet, British Columbia. In the first experiment, copper was added 1 day after mooring at concentrations of 10 and 50 μg/l copper. Ten days later, populations of centric diatoms, Chaetoceros sp., declined as a proportion of the crop in copper-treated enclosures. These populations were replaced by copper-insensitive algae (microflagellates, Nitzschia delicatissima and Navicula distans). Taxonomic diversity declined in both control and treated enclosures, but was very much lower in copper treatments. Biomass diversities also declined, but the differences between control and treated enclosures were not significant.

In the second experiment, copper was added 10 days after the start at concentrations of 5 and 10 μg/l copper. Before copper addition diatoms declined proportionally and were replaced by microflagellates. Thereafter, in the control enclosure, the proportion of centric diatoms and dinoflagellates increased. Copper treatment resulted in low proportions of centric diatoms and the complete absence of dinoflagellates 4 days after copper treatment. The remaining populations consisted mainly of pennate diatoms, of which Nitzschia delicatissima was prominent. Taxonomic and biomass diversity declined in all enclosures prior to copper treatment; copper treatment in this experiment did not result in significant changes in either diversity measurement.

These studies provide data substantiating the hypothesis that certain algae will predominate over others when pollutants are introduced into the sea.

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: January 1, 1977

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  • The Bulletin of Marine Science is dedicated to the dissemination of high quality research from the world's oceans. All aspects of marine science are treated by the Bulletin of Marine Science, including papers in marine biology, biological oceanography, fisheries, marine affairs, applied marine physics, marine geology and geophysics, marine and atmospheric chemistry, and meteorology and physical oceanography.
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