Use of diatom indices to categorise impacts on and recovery of a floodplain system in South Africa
The trophic status of the Ramsar-accredited Nyl River floodplain, which is stressed by sewage treatment effluents, and its ability to restore normal conditions, were assessed in 2014–2015 using diatoms as biological indicators. The Trophic diatom Index, Specific Pollution Sensitivity Index and the Generic diatom Index were used to characterise water quality under high and low flow conditions in 2014. An additional survey was conducted in May 2015, following an accidental sulphuric acid spill above the Sewage Treatment Works (STW). Significant linear correlations were identified between physico-chemical parameters and the indices, as well as between the three indices themselves, validating their use to infer water quality. Water quality deteriorated from the source of the Klein Nyl River, especially at the STW, but improved within the Nylsvley Nature Reserve wetland sampling site (NYL).
Keywords: eutrophication, nutrients, pollution, Ramsar, sewage treatment, water quality, wetland