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Proc Biol Sci. 2006 Oct 22;273(1601):2667-74.

Are algal communities driven toward maximum biomass?

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  • 1Department of Biology, University of Texas at Arlington, PO Box 19498, Arlington, TX 76019, USA.


In this continental-scale study, we show that in major benthic and planktonic stream habitats, algal biovolume--a proxy measure of biomass--is a unimodal function of species richness (SR). The biovolume peak is observed at intermediate to high SR in the benthos but at low richness in the phytoplankton. The unimodal nature of the biomass-diversity relationship implies that a decline in algal biomass with potential harmful effects on all higher trophic levels, from invertebrates to fish, can result from either excessive species gain or species loss, both being common consequences of human-induced habitat alterations. SR frequency distributions indicate that the most frequent richness is habitat-specific and significantly higher in the benthos than in the plankton. In all studied stream environments, the most frequent SR is lower than the SR that yields the highest biovolume, probably as a result of anthropogenic influences, but always within one standard deviation from it, i.e. they are statistically indistinguishable. This suggests that algal communities may be driven toward maximum biomass.

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