Bryozoan populations reflect nutrient enrichment and productivity gradients in rivers

H. Hartikainen, Penny J Johnes, CB Moncrieff, Beth Okamura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

43 Citations (Scopus)


1. The hypothesis that nutrient enrichment will affect bryozoan abundance was tested using two complementary investigations; a field-based method determining bryozoan abundance in 20 rivers of different nutrient concentrations by deploying statoblast (dormant propagule) traps and an experimental laboratory microcosm study measuring bryozoan growth and mortality. These two methods confirmed independently that increased nutrient concentrations in water promote increases in the biomass of freshwater bryozoans.
2. Statoblasts of the genus Plumatella were recorded in all rivers, regardless of nutrient concentrations, demonstrating that freshwater bryozoans are widespread. Concentrations of Plumatella statoblasts were high in rivers with high nutrient concentrations relative to those with low to moderate nutrient concentrations. Regression analyses indicated that phosphorus concentrations, in particular, significantly influenced statoblast concentrations.
3. Concentrations of Lophopus crystallinus statoblasts were also higher in sites characterised by high nutrient concentrations. Logistic regression analysis revealed that the presence of L. crystallinus statoblasts was significantly associated with decreasing altitude and increasing phosphorus concentrations. This apparently rare species was found in nine rivers (out of 20), seven of which were new sites for L. crystallinus.
4. Growth rates of Fredericella sultana in laboratory microcosms increased with increasing nutrient concentration and high mortality rates were associated with low nutrient concentrations.
5. Our results indicate that bryozoans respond to increasing nutrient concentrations by increased growth, resulting in higher biomasses in enriched waters. We also found that an important component of bryozoan diets can derive from food items lacking chlorophyll a.
Finally, bryozoans may be used as independent proxies for inferring trophic conditions, a feature that may be especially valuable in reconstructing historical environments by assessing the abundance of statoblasts in sediment cores.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2320-2334
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number11
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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