|Title||Controls on microbial mat coverage and diatom species turnover in Antarctic desert streams: A transplant experiment|
|Year of Publication||2021|
|Secondary Authors||McKnight, DM|
|Academic Department||Department of Environmental Studies|
|University||University of Colorado Boulder|
|Keywords||Antarctica, diatom, microbial mat, streams, transplant, turnover|
This thesis evaluates how polar desert streams regulate benthic microbial mat coverage, chlorophyll-a biomass, and diatom species composition. Microbial mats growing on rocks (eplithon) and on sandy substrate (epipelon) were reciprocally transplanted among four glaciers meltwater streams and monitored through time. The selected study streams were Green Creek, Bowles Creek, Delta Stream, Von Guerard Stream in the Lake Fryxell Basin in the McMurdo Dry Valleys, Antarctica. These streams vary in length, streamflow intermittency, and diatom community composition of microbial mats. Results demonstrate that streams strongly control mat biomass (coverage and chlorophyll-a) differently for epilithon and epipelon. However, diatom species composition did not vary between these growth habitats but instead varied by stream, suggesting adaptive niche separation related to environmental conditions. Diatom species composition of transplants in Green Creek became dissimilar from their initial stream communities suggesting downstream dispersal and within stream connectivity regulates community assembly. This experiment confirms that environmental characteristics and intra-stream dispersal processes exert strong control over maintaining microbial mat coverage, biomass accrual, and diatom species composition.