Geothermal diatoms: A comparative study of floras in hot spring systems of Iceland, New Zealand, and Kenya

R Bernhart OWEN, Robin W. Renaut, Brian Jones

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articlepeer-review

66 Citations (Scopus)


Diatom floras were examined from geothermal environments in three contrasting tectonic settings. These included subduction-related acid and alkaline springs in New Zealand; alkaline springs along a divergent plate boundary on Iceland; and alkaline springs in the Kenya Rift. These shallow (<1 cm) aquatic environments vary considerably (e.g., temperature: 21.3-99°C; pH: 2.1-9.65; 56.41-643 mg l-1 SiO2). Diatoms form an important component of geothermal floras at temperatures of <45°C. The floras from New Zealand are distinguished by the common occurrence of Pinnularia. Icelandic springs have a variety of Fragilariaceae. Navicula and Anomoeoneis are most common in the Kenyan springs. Statistical analyses suggest that the diatoms cluster into seven major groups. The most common taxa include: Achnanthidium exiguum v. heterovalvum (Kras.) Czarn., Anomoeoneis sphaerophora (Ehrenb.) Pfitz, Brachysira brebissonii f. thermalis Grun., Caloneis bacillum (Grun.) Cl., Craticula cuspidata (Kütz.) Mann, Diadesmis confervacea Kütz., Epithemia argus (Ehrenb.) Kütz., Frustulia rhomboides (Ehrenb.) DeT., Hantzschia amphioxys (Ehrenb.) Grun., Navicula tenelloides Hust., Nitzschia amphibia Grun., Nitzschia inconspicua Grun., Nitzschia invisitata Hust., Nitzschia frustulum (Kütz.) Grun., Nitzschia sigma (Kütz.) W, Smith., Pinnularia chapmaniana Fog., Pinnularia appendiculata (Ag.) Cl., Pinnularia molaris (Grun.) Cl., Pinnularia acoricola Hust., Rhopalodia gibberula (Ehrenb.) O. Müll., Staurosira construens v. venter (Ehrenb.) Ham., Staurosira elliptica (Schum.) Will. & Round, and Staurosirella pinnata (Ehrenb.) Will. & Round. Canonical correspondence analysis shows clear correlations between species, alkalinity, pH, and conductivity, with less strong correlations for silica and temperature. Other factors include substrate type, current velocity, and light conditions. The preservation potential of host deposits varies considerably, being lowest for springs on clastic deltas and highest where travertine or sinter is accumulating.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)175-192
Number of pages18
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2008

Scopus Subject Areas

  • Aquatic Science

User-Defined Keywords

  • Diatoms
  • Hot springs
  • Phycogeography
  • Swamps
  • Thermal streams
  • Variability


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