The influence of land use on the quality of seston in southern Appalachian stream ecosystems
Wojculewski, Christy Ann
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Seston is the complex of organic and inorganic particles suspended in the water column in stream ecosystems. This detrital pool is a significant vector of energy and nutrients from headwaters to the ocean. Many of the processes involved in seston generation in streams involve the terrestrial ecosystems they drain. My objective was to determine how land use influences seston quality. Seston was collected from 9 streams along a gradient of catchment forest cover, draining 3 land-use categories: forested, agricultural, and residential. Quality variations were determined through the physical composition (size classes and concentration), chemical composition (carbon, nitrogen, and phosphorous) and organic content of seston, as well as microbial respiration of associated assemblages and growth rates of Chironomus tentans fed seston. There was more seston in streams draining less forested catchments but proportionally that material was less organic. Ultrafine particles dominated seston size classes at all sites and was higher in streams with less catchment forest cover. Phosphorous content of seston, as a % of ash free dry mass, and dissolved P in the water were higher in more disturbed streams, and C:N and N:P ratios of seston were higher in forested streams. Microbial respiration and instantaneous growth rates of C. tentans were highest on residential seston, indicating seston from those streams was more bioavailable. These results indicate that the quality of seston in stream ecosystems is linked to terrestrial processes and influenced by land use.
- Masters Theses