Autofluorescence imaging system to discriminate and quantify the distribution of benthic cyanobacteria and diatoms

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Observation of benthic photoautotrophs on sediment surfaces shows a single algal layer without distinction between photosynthetic groups. Until now it has not been possible to distinguish between benthic photosynthetic microorganisms, i.e. cyanobacteria and diatoms, at μm to mm scales using a single nondisruptive system. Chlorophyll autofluorescence can be used to distinguish different photoautotrophic groups if the correct excitation light is applied. Using this principle, a nonintrusive technique was developed to study the spatial distribution of benthic cyanobacteria and diatoms. By means of a charge coupled device camera, diatoms and cyanobacteria could be identified by blue light (470 nm) excitation and amber light (600 nm) excitation, respectively. By this approach, diatom or cyanobacterial dominance could be easily distinguished using the blue over amber ratio. We applied this method successfully to (mixed) laboratory cultures as well as natural photosynthetic microbial mats. Cultures of the diatom Nitzschia capitellata and the cyanobacterium Geitlerinema sp. showed close correlation between autofluorescence and cell abundance. This simple and cheap imaging system allows fast observations of the fine-scale (μm–mm) spatial heterogeneities of live benthic microbial photoautotrophs both in culture and natural photosynthetic biofilms structure (e.g., microphytobenthos and photosynthetic microbial mats). © 2014 Association for the Sciences of Limnology and Oceanography
Original languageEnglish
JournalLimnology and Oceanography: Methods
Issue number4
Pages (from-to)169-177
Number of pages9
Publication statusPublished - 2015

ID: 138189642