Algal biofuel has potential as a source of renewable fuel and a tool for wastewater remediation. Open algal bioreactors fertilized with wastewater can have net energy gain but are vulnerable to colonization by algal grazers. However, colonizing predaceous insects may limit grazer impacts on algae. Here, we investigate the effects of grazers, predators, and invading algae species on algal production and community structure in high-nutrient environments. First, we grew diverse algal assemblages in treated municipal wastewater in a greenhouse with Daphnia grazers and different insect predators that were added experimentally. When Daphnia were present without predators, they eliminated suspended algae. But, dragonfly larvae [Odonata: Libellulidae] and backswimmers [Hemiptera: Notonectidae], but not larval diving beetles [Coloeoptera: Dytiscidae], suppressed Daphnia allowing suspended algae to persist. Second, we grew Chlorella algae in field tanks that were open or protected from natural invertebrate colonization and half the tanks received wild-collected plankton in a factorial design. Mosquito larvae [Culex sp.] readily colonized open tanks and reduced algal mass and dissolved phosphorus concentrations. Colonist addition to open tanks shifted algal functional and taxonomic composition but did not impact suspended algal production. Our study indicates that large numbers of grazer individuals can rapidly colonize open bioreactors. Experimentally added and naturally colonizing grazers altered algal community structure and reduced algal standing crops but may also aid in nutrient removal from wastewater-fed bioreactors. Effective operation of open algal bioreactors must consider cultivated algae species’ vulnerability to competition and local grazers as well as the ability of potential predators to both naturally disperse into bioreactors and to control grazers.
Aquatic Ecology – Springer Journals
Published: Jan 29, 2018
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