Effects of cooling water discharge on the structure and dynamics of epilithic algal communities in the northern Baltic

P. J M Snoeijs*, I. C. Prentice

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Citations (Scopus)


The Forsmark Biotest Basin is a shallow coastal ecosystem that receives brackish cooling-water discharge from a nuclear power plant. The effects of the discharge on epilithic algal communities were investigated by analysing samples taken every third week throughout one year at 11 sites differentially affected by temperature and/or flow rate enhancement. Community variation was summarized in a canonical correspondence analysis (CCA) of species abundances as a function of site and date. The temperature increase favoured blue-green algae at the expense of red and brown algae. Blue-green algae were however abundant in summer in stagnant water, whether heated or not, and some red and brown algae became abundant in winter in heated sites with flowing water. Green algae and diatoms increased in biomass in the heated sites, but not in relative cover-abundance. The absence of ice and snow cover at sites with heated and/or flowing water caused autumn species to persist into winter, because of the higher light intensity (compared with natural conditions) and the absence of the mechanical abrasion by ice. The thermal discharge lowered species diversity (Shannon-Weaver index) both in summer and winter at sites with flowing water, but not at sites with quiescent or stagnant water. CCA showed alternate periods of stability and rapid change within the seasonal cycle. Individual species were placed according to their optimum; red and brown algae in winter/spring, green algae in spring/summer, blue-green algae in summer, and diatoms at various times. Exceptions to this pattern were species endo- or epiphytic on species of a different group. Analysis of the effects of temperature, flow rate and ice cover on the seasonal pattern of particular species showed that different species respond in individualistic ways to different combinations of these environmental variables.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)99-123
Number of pages25
Issue number1-2
Publication statusPublished - Nov 1989
Externally publishedYes


  • Baltic Sea
  • CCA
  • diversity
  • epilithic algae
  • periphyton
  • thermal discharge
  • vegetation dynamics


Dive into the research topics of 'Effects of cooling water discharge on the structure and dynamics of epilithic algal communities in the northern Baltic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this