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Biofilm scrubbing for restoration—algae community composition and succession in artificial streams

1 Marine Research Centre, Finnish Environment Institute, Erik Palménin aukio 1, FI-00251 Helsinki, Finland
2 Department of Limnology and Bio-Oceanography, University of Vienna, Althanstraße 14, A-1090 Vienna, Austria

Special Issues: Environmental applications of Biofilms

Photoautotrophic biofilms play a pivotal role in self-purification of rivers. We took advantage of the biofilm’s cleaning capacity by applying artificial stream mesocosms, called algae turf scrubberTM (ATS), to reduce the nutrient load of a highly eutrophicated backwater in Vienna (Austria). Since purification strongly depends on benthic algae on the ATS, we focused on the algae community composition and succession. Estimation of coverage, photographic documentation for micromapping, species identification and pigment analyses were carried out. Already one week after exposition, 20–30 different taxa were recorded, suggesting a rapid colonization of the substrate. In total around 200 taxa were identified, mainly belonging to Chlorophyta, Bacillariophyceae and Cyanoprokaryota. Nonmetric multidimensional scaling implied that season and succession strongly influenced species composition on the ATS and a minimum turnover of 0.28 indicates a development towards a more stable community at the end of experiments. We measured maximum biomass production of ~250 g m−2 in June and August and during a period of 5 months nearly 19 kg ha−1 phosphorus could be removed. ATS systems proved to retain nutrients and produce algae biomass in an environmentally friendly and cost effective way and thus support restoration of highly eutrophicated water bodies.
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