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Distribution of benthic diatoms in Korean rivers and streams in relation to environmental variables

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  08 July 2011

Soon-Jin Hwang*
Department of Environmental Science, Konkuk University, Seoul 143-701, Republic of Korea
Nan-Young Kim
Department of Environmental Science, Konkuk University, Seoul 143-701, Republic of Korea
Sung Ae Yoon
Department of Environmental Science, Konkuk University, Seoul 143-701, Republic of Korea
Baik-Ho Kim
Department of Environmental Science, Konkuk University, Seoul 143-701, Republic of Korea
Myung Hwan Park
Department of Environmental Science, Konkuk University, Seoul 143-701, Republic of Korea
Kyung-A You
Department of Environmental Science, Konkuk University, Seoul 143-701, Republic of Korea
Hak Young Lee
Department of Biological Science, Chonnam National University, Gwangju 500-757, Republic of Korea
Han Soon Kim
Department of Biology, Kyungpoouk National University, Daegu 702-701, Republic of Korea
Yong Jae Kim
Department of Biology, Daejin University, Phochon 487-711, Republic of Korea
Jungho Lee
Department of Biological Education, Daegu University, Gyeongsan 712-714, Republic of Korea
Ok Min Lee
Department of Biology, Kyonggi University, Suwon 443-760, Republic of Korea
Jae Ki Shin
K-Water Research Institute, Korea Water Resources Cooperation, Daejon 305-730, Republic of Korea
Eun Joo Lee
Institute of Korean Alagetech, Gangneung 210-793, Republic of Korea
Sook Lye Jeon
R&D Center, KORBI Co. Ltd, Anyang 431-755, Republic of Korea
Huyn Soo Joo
Department of Parasitology, College of Medicine, Seonam University, Namwon 590-711, Republic of Korea
*Corresponding author:


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The diatoms are an ecologically important group of algae that have been extensively studied by ecologists and taxonomists. However, the large-scale patterns of diatom distribution and the factors underlying this distribution are largely unknown. The aims of this study were to identify the large-scale spatial patterns of benthic diatom assemblages in Korean streams and rivers, and to assess the importance of numerous environmental factors on diatom distribution. We classified 720 study sites based on diatom flora. Benthic diatoms, water chemistry, altitude, and riparian land cover and use were characterized by multivariate analyses, Monte Carlo permutation tests, and indicator species analysis. In total, we identified 531 diatom taxa. Diatom assemblages were mostly dominated by species of the genera Achnanthes, Navicula, Nitzschia, Cocconeis, Fragilaria (Synedra included), Cymbella, Gomphonema, and Melosira. Cluster analysis partitioned all 720 sites into eight groups based on diatom species composition. Canonical correspondence analysis indicated that altitude, land cover and use, current velocity, electrical conductivity, and nutrient levels explained a significant amount of the variation in the composition of assemblages of benthic diatoms. At the national scale, a downstream ecological gradient was apparent, from fast-flowing, mostly oligotrophic highland streams to slow-flowing, mostly eutrophic lowland rivers. Our data suggest that spatial factors explain some of the variation in diatom distribution. The present investigation of the spatial patterns of benthic diatoms, the ecological determinants of diatom occurrence, and the identification of diatom indicator species contributes to development of a program for assessing the biological integrity of lotic ecosystems in Korea.

Research Article
© EDP Sciences, 2011


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