Accurately measuring the abundance of benthic microalgae in spatially variable habitats
Although many studies measure the abundance of benthic microalgae (BMA), at the meters squared scale, comparing these studies is difficult due to the variety of sampling, extraction, and analysis techniques. This difficulty is exacerbated by the fact that BMA abundance has high spatial and temporal variability, at all spatial scales. A suitable standard sampling regimen would reduce variation in estimates due to different sample collection and processing greatly facilitating comparisons between studies. This study examined the effect of varying the volume of extraction solvent, sampling core diameter, and sample replication on BMA biomass estimates. Key findings, applicable to all spatial scales, to accurately determine biomass were the use of a minimum sediment to extraction solvent ratio of 1:2 and use of a sampling core diameter of 19 mm. Across a wide range of sediment types, at the meters squared scale and using spectrophotometric techniques, a minimum replication number of 8 was found to be appropriate. We report the significant effect coring depth and units of expression have on BMA biomass estimates across a range of sediment types, highlighting the potential pitfalls when comparing studies.