Benthic primary production in polar lakes and rivers
The benthic component of lakes, ponds, rivers, and streams is often rich in biodiversity as well as biomass. The main communities in the benthic habitat are microbial mats, aquatic mosses, and green algal felts that inhabit both running and lentic waters. The substantial primary production in these benthic autotrophic communities, together with their reduced losses of assimilated carbon because of the low temperatures, low degradation rates, and minimal grazing pressure, can result in luxuriant growth and accumulation of these photosynthetic elements. This chapter describes the types of communities typically found in non-marine benthic habitats. A review of the primary production rates that have been measured under different circumstances is also presented, drawing on information from the literature as well as unpublished data. The chapter concludes by exploring why the benthic component (phytobenthos) often dominates over planktonic communities (phytoplankton) in polar aquatic ecosystems.
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