Benthic algal biomass and assemblage changes following environmental flow releases and unregulated tributary flows downstream of a major storage

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Journal Article
Marine and Freshwater Research, 2014, 65 (12), pp. 1059 - 1071
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© CSIRO 2014. A large dam reducing the magnitude of flows regulates the Severn River, Australia. Environmental flows (EFs) are designed to increase the magnitude of flow and improve ecological outcomes such as reducing filamentous algal biomass and re-setting algal succession. The effectiveness of EF releases to alter benthic algal assemblages is poorly understood. We examined benthic algal biomass and assemblage structure at two cobble-dominated riffle sites downstream of Pindari Dam, before and after two EFs. Both EFs had discharges of ∼11.6m 3 s -1 (velocity of ∼0.9ms -1 ). Neither EF reduced benthic algal biomass, and sometimes led to increases, with density of some filamentous algae increasing (Stigeoclonium and Leptolyngbya). An unregulated flow from a tributary between the two sites increased discharge to 25.2m 3 s -1 (velocity of ∼1.2ms -1 ), decreasing biomass and density of filamentous algae. The similarity in flow velocities between scouring and non-scouring events suggests that thresholds may exist and/or suspended sediments carried from unregulated tributaries may contribute to reduce algal biomass. Identifying velocities needed to reduce algal biomass are useful. Accordingly, EFs with flow velocities ∼1.2ms -1 may achieve this in river cobble-dominated riffle sections dominated by filamentous algae. Lower flow velocities of < 0.9ms -1 may result in no change or an increase in filamentous algae.
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