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The Ecology and Palaeoecology of Diatom – Duckweed Relationships

Emson, D; (2015) The Ecology and Palaeoecology of Diatom – Duckweed Relationships. Doctoral thesis , UCL (University College London). Green open access

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Abstract

This thesis focuses on the ecology and palaeoecology of diatom-duckweed relationships and utilises a combined experimental, ecological and palaeoecological approach. In particular, the study sought to determine the potential of the epiphytic diatom Lemnicola hungarica to be utilised as a proxy indicator of past dominance of duckweed (Lemna) in small ponds. To this end, contemporary sampling of epiphytic diatom assemblages from a variety of macrophytes (including multiple samples of free-floating plants) were collected from around the world and analysed for diatom epiphytes. In this study, even despite significant environmental gradients, L. hungarica showed a significant association with free-floating plants (including Lemna spp.) as did Sellaphora seminulum. To determine whether this relationship might be used to infer Lemna-dominance in sediment cores, diatom assemblages were analysed in surface sediments from English Lemna and non-Lemna covered ponds and in a core from a pond (Bodham Rail Pit, eastern England) known to have exhibited periods of Lemna-dominance in the past. In both cases, the data suggested that both L. hungarica and S. seminulum were excellent predictors of past Lemna-dominance. Finally, to infer the consequences of Lemna-dominance for the long-term biological structure and ecosystem function of the Bodham Rail Pit, the sedimentary remains of diatoms, plant pigments, and plant and animal macrofossils were enumerated from two sediment cores. These stratigraphic data were compared with the diatom Lemna-indicator metric which indicated three distinct Lemna cycles. Sediment core analyses suggested major compositional, structural and ecological changes brought about by the Lemna cycles, especially in the submerged macrophyte community and in fish-invertebrate relationships. These data reveal that duckweed proliferation, often brought about by eutrophication and terrestrialisation in ponds, can result in dramatic ecological changes due to a strong physical ecosystem engineering effect.

Type: Thesis (Doctoral)
Title: The Ecology and Palaeoecology of Diatom – Duckweed Relationships
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Language: English
Keywords: Diatoms, Duckweed, Lemna, Palaeoecology, Pond
URI: http://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/1462713
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