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Can Tolerant Diatom Taxa be Used for Effective Assessments of Human Pressure?

Szczepocka, E., Kruk, A., Rakowska, B.
River research and applications 2015 v.31 no.3 pp. 368-378
Bacillariophycidae, environmental factors, humans, neural networks, rivers, wastewater, water pollution, water quality, watersheds, Poland
Because lately the low bioindicative value of tolerant species from different taxonomic groups is often questioned, in this study, we hypothesized that tolerant diatoms may be used for effective temporal assessments of human pressure. We tested this on the lowland Bzura River in central Poland, on 156 diatom samples (DSs) from two study periods of 1972 with extremely severe point‐source water pollution and of 2002–2004, where the complex wastewater management in the river catchment improved water quality considerably. Out of the total 295 diatom species recorded in the samples, only 133 tolerant ones were included in the study. Patterns in their abundance were recognized with a Kohonen artificial neural network (self‐organizing map, SOM), whereas the species significantly associated with each SOM cluster of diatom samples were identified with the indicator value (IndVal) index and the Monte Carlo test. If the hypothesis tested was not supported, the assignation of DSs to the SOM clusters would be random. However, the separation of DSs from 1972 and 2002–2004 was almost perfect because the number of exceptions was as low as 4.5%. In addition, the relatively high number (64 out of 133) of tolerant species significantly associated with any SOM cluster (and respective environmental conditions at sites from which samples assigned to it come) supports the hypothesis tested. This means that almost half of the studied species are not evenly distributed in particular clusters as might be expected for highly tolerant species. The study proves that the abundances of many diatom species, currently classified as tolerant, carry quite precise information on the differences in the quality of the environment, and indicates those tolerant diatom species whose bioindicative potential may be highest.