Potential factors controlling benthic algae in the upper White River Basin, Colorado, 2018–21
Nuisance levels of benthic algae are becoming increasingly common in surface waters of the western United States and can compromise aesthetic quality, limit recreational activities, block water infrastructure, and negatively affect aquatic life. In cooperation with the White River and Douglas Creek Conservation Districts, the Colorado River Basin Salinity Control Forum, and the Colorado River Water Conservation District, the U.S. Geological Survey studied physical, chemical, and biological factors potentially controlling the occurrence of benthic algae in the upper White River Basin, Colorado, from 2018 through 2021. Multiple approaches were used to assess nutrients and physical conditions in the upper White River Basin. A linear mixed-effects model was used to evaluate the relative effect of different factors on algal biomass across water-quality sites.
The frequency and severity of algal blooms in the upper White River Basin may be affected by long-term changes in nutrient availability and streamflow, specifically changes in the timing and magnitude of high and low streamflow. The effects of large peak streamflow, including movement of the streambed, may be the dominant control on the occurrence of algal blooms through years. Large, late, and long-lasting peak streamflow may limit algal blooms during the same year and into subsequent years. Without streambed disturbance, other factors such as nutrients and water temperature may have a larger effect on algal biomass.
|Potential factors controlling benthic algae in the upper White River Basin, Colorado, 2018–21
|Rachel G. Gidley, Natalie K. Day
|USGS Numbered Series
|USGS Publications Warehouse
|Colorado Water Science Center; Southwest Biological Science Center