How will increased temperature and nutrient enrichment affect primary producers in sub-Arctic streams?

Rakel Gudmundsdottir*, Jon S. Olafsson, Snaebjorn Palsson, Gisli M. Gislason, Brian Moss

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

26 Citations (Scopus)


1.Spring-fed streams, with temperatures ranging from 7.1 to 21.6°C, in an alpine geothermal area in SW Iceland were chosen to test hypotheses on the effects of nutrients and temperature on stream primary producers. Ammonium nitrate was dripped into the lower reaches of eight streams, with higher reaches being used as controls, during the summers of 2006 and 2007. Dry mass of larger primary producers, epilithic chlorophyll a and biovolumes of epilithic algae were measured. 2.Bryophyte communities were dominated by Fontinalis antipyretica, and biomass was greatest in the warmest streams. Jungermannia exsertifolia, a liverwort, was found in low densities in few samples from cold streams but this species was absent from the warmest streams. 3.Nutrient enrichment increased the biomass of bryophytes significantly in warm streams. No effects of the nutrient addition were detected on vascular plants. The biomass of larger filamentous algae (mainly Cladophora spp.) was significantly increased by nutrient enrichment in cold streams but reduced by nutrients in warm streams. Thalloid cyanobacteria (Nostoc spp.) were not affected by nutrients in cold streams but decreased with nutrient addition in warm streams. Epilithic algal chlorophyll a was increased by nutrients in all streams and to a greater extent in 2007 than in 2006. Nutrient addition did not affect the epilithic chlorophyll a differently in streams of different temperatures. 4.There were small differential effects of nutrients, influenced by pH and conductivity, on different epilithic algal groups. 5.As global temperatures increase, animal husbandry and perhaps crop agriculture are likely to increase in Iceland. Temperature will directly influence the stream communities, but its secondary effects, manifested through agricultural eutrophication, are likely to be much greater.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2045-2058
Number of pages14
JournalFreshwater Biology
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2011

Other keywords

  • Bryophytes
  • Climate change
  • Epilithic algae
  • In situ experiments
  • Nitrogen


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