Diatom responses to river water quality in the Kruger National Park, South Africa
Background: Although the Kruger National Park (KNP) is a protected area, it is not exempted from anthropogenically induced impacts, which often compromise river water flow and quality. Measures of river water quality in South Africa have conventionally been based on water chemistry as well as different ecological indicator groups such as fish and macroinvertebrates. Diatoms have been shown to be useful indicators of changes in water quality resulting from pollution and land-use impacts.
Objectives: To determine the applicability of diatoms for hind-casting water quality in the KNP and to compare recent diatom community composition with those from the 1980s.
Methods: In this study, pH and electrical conductivity (EC) were used to evaluate temporal changes in water quality of three rivers within the KNP. Additionally, we made use of historic diatom samples from three of the five perennial rivers to evaluate if diatom communities reflected changes in water conditions between 1983 and 2015.
Results: Diatom community structure was significantly different between 1983 and 2015. Diatom-based index scores (SPI) indicated an improvement in water quality for the Letaba and Olifants rivers.
Conclusion: Diatoms were shown to be useful indicators of current water quality and are also useful for determining temporal changes.
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