Experimental dam releases stimulate respiration in an epilithic biofilm community

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Journal Article
Hydrobiologia, 2018, 820 (1), pp. 175 - 187
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© 2018, Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature. This study explored biofilm metabolism as a functional indicator of ecological responses to dissolved organic carbon and inorganic nutrients from managed dam releases. We hypothesised that the dam releases would stimulate epilithic biofilm community respiration (CR), and trigger a larger increase in biofilm CR relative to gross primary production (GPP). We predicted that biofilm respiration would be related to water column dissolved carbon and nutrient concentrations. Tiles colonised with epilithic biofilm were exposed to dam release waters in a stream-side mesocosm system that separated out the physical effects of flow velocity. Biofilm CR increased during two of three releases, and increases in CR were larger relative to GPP during all three releases. Biofilm CR was not linearly related to dissolved resources or abiotic environmental variables. These results show that managed dam releases can influence biofilm metabolism via a mechanism independent from the direct physical effects of increased flow velocity. This study provides new insights into the complex pathways through which managed dam releases may influence ecological processes. The stimulation of benthic CR through physical and chemical variations in dam water is a potential mechanism through which dam releases may influence biogeochemical processing and energy flow through the riverine food web.
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