Biodiversity of Microalgae in Western and Eastern Ghats, India
R. Praveen Kumar,
The systematic study was conducted on the microalgal flora of Western Ghats and other parts of Eastern Ghats revealed a rich wetland algal resource for biotechnological exploration. The present study reveals with the diversity of microalgal flora in the region of Kodaikanal (10°14' N, 77°28' E), Gudalur (9°19'N 77°12'E), Agasthiyar falls (9°58'N, 78°10'E) and Kolli hills (10°12'N, 77°56'E) located in Western and Eastern Ghats of Tamilnadu, India collected in May 2011. In total, 97 species of micro algae belonging to three taxonomic groups were identified, of which 41 species belonging to Cyanophyceae, 38 species from Chlorophyceae and 18 species from Bacillariophyceae. The predominant species in Cyanophyceae were Aphanothece microscopica, Chroococcus minutus, Coelospharium dubium, Hydrococcus rivularism, Oscillatoria princeps, Nostoc muscorum, Nostoc puncteforme, Nostoc commune, Gleotricha gausii, Calothrix braunii, Rivellaria sp., Tolypothrix tenuis, Scytonema schmidtii, whereas in Chlorophyceae, Chlorella sp., Scenedesmus sp., Pediastrum duplex, Cosmarium consperum, Euastrum elagans, Micrasterias americana and in Bacillariophyceae, Navicula hallophyla, Rhophaldia gebrella, Fragellaria intermedia, Pinnularia virdis, Nitzchia palliate. Physicochemical nature of water samples were analyzed and correlated with the total microalgal diversity. Based on the correlation coefficient data, the micro algae showed positive relationship with dissolved oxygen, salinity, nutrients and negative relationship with temperature and turbidity. The species diversity index (H'), Species Richness (SR) and species evenness (J') were calculated and analyzed for microalgal population dynamic variation in the Western and Eastern Ghats.
Received: November 05, 2012;
Accepted: January 28, 2013;
Published: March 04, 2013
Biodiversity is the degree of variability among all living organisms from marine,
terrestrial, aquatic ecosystems and diversity within species and of ecosystem,
However microalgae diversity in high mountain ecosystems and their geographical
distribution have received considerable attention, especially with respect to
physico-chemical parameters of water (Huber et al.,
2005). The western ghats is one of the hotspots of biodiversity (Myers
et al., 2000) with tremendous species richness and levels of endemisum
and also this region occupies about 2100 km2 covering seven districts
and it covers various types of vegetation including evergreen, tropical deciduous,
scrub, subtropical temperature forests and grasslands. The complex geography,
wide variations in annual rainfall from 1000-6000 mm and altitunal decrease
in temperature, coupled with anthropogenic factors, have produced a variety
of vegetation types in the western ghats. It is one of the identified hotspots
of biological diversity globally and comprises about 12,000 species ranging
from cyanobacteria to angiosperms. The forest ecosystem in the Western Ghats
is one among the 18 biodiversity hotspots of the world selected for conservation.
This accounts does not include the microalgae diversity of this region. Most
of the research works related to the mountain system so far have been on the
flora and fauna of the region. No specific literature is available on microalgae
in the region. Sugunan (1995) stressed detailed investigations
of the reservoirs in the Western Ghats. There are also only few papers dealing
with epilithic microalgae of high mountain lakes and rock moist soil from other
regions in Tamilnadu hill station (Rajakumar et al.,
2006; Sankaran, 2005). Among these, Kodaikanal
(1850 m a.s.l.) and Gudalur (2000 m a.s.l), Agesthiyar falls (100 m a.s.l) are
located in the Western Ghats and one eastern ghats Kolli hills (1415 m a.s.l.)
(Tamilnadu) (Fig. 1). They lie on peat soil, over a rocky
substratum of quartziferous porphyry, surrounded by a sphagnum- and sedge-rich
vegetation (Festi and Prosser, 2000).
|| Sampling site of microalgal collection
In this study, we assessed whether abiotic factors (altitude and soil physico-chemical
composition) and biotic factors (vegetation types) predict the taxonomic composition
in the Western Ghats of south India (Kodaikanal, Gudalur, Mountains, Agesthiyar
falls and Eastern Kolli kills).
MATERIALS AND METHODS
Study site: The work conducted in (January-May) 2011 at four sites in four mountain areas of Western Ghats, Kodaikanal (10°14' N, 77°28' E) is located in the southern crest of the Palani hills, Gudalur (9°19'N 77°12'E) and Agasthiyar falls (9°58'N, 78°10'E) are located in the Western Ghats mountain range of Tamilnadu and Kolli hills (10°12'N, 77°56'E) is located in the Eastern Ghats in the State of Tamil Nadu (Fig. 1). The Western Ghats consists mainly of metamorphic rocks (biotite gneiss, quartzose gneiss felspar, biotite and garnet). In total, 22 moist soil and water samples were collected along with four altitudinal transects at the four mountain sites.
Collection of samples and cultivation of microalgae: Random samples
were taken from six different substrate- rocks, fine gravel, moist soil, water
sediment moss in pools and riffles. The algae samples were scraped and transferred
into a sterile plastic bottles using sterile blades and forceps and were transported
to the Department of Microbiology, Bharathidasan University, India for taxonomic
and cultural studies. One set of samples were preserved in 4% formaldehyde and
then analyzed under a light microscope. Samples were transferred to Erlenmeyer
flasks containing Chu,s 13 medium (Largeau et
al., 1980), BG11 medium (Rippka et al., 1979),
f/2 medium. They were maintained in culture room under white fluorescence lamps
(3000 lux), 14"10 L/D at 25 "2°C until they were examined. Microphotographs
of these species were taken using Optica Labomed microscope E-400 with H-III
photo micrographic attachment.
Physicochemical analysis: The physico-chemical analysis of water like
pH, dissolved oxygen, total hardness, nitrate, phosphate were estimated by standard
procedure (Strickland and Parsons, 1972; Wetzel
and Likens 1979; APHA, 1998). Algae for the qualitative
analysis were collected from several rocks of the sample site, which had a visible
growth of algae. Diatoms were removed from stones (about 10 stones) using a
toothbrush and washed directly from the surface of the stones into a sample
bottle. Diatoms were identified by examining permanent slides of them prepared
by the hot hydrogen peroxide method (Hindak, 1978) and
mounted in Naphrax. Identification of these samples was carried out using the
taxonomic publications of Desikachary (1959), Smith
(1950), Prescott (1951) and Anand
(1988). Correlation coefficients (r) were calculated for microalgal abundance
and physico-chemical parameters and the analysis of variance (F) tests were
made for hydrological parameters in relation to the station.
Biodiversity and statistical analysis: All the statistical analysis
were performed using SPSS statistical software (Version 17.0 for Windows, SPSS,
Chicago, IL, USA).The diversity indices like Simpsons index, Shannon index,
Shannon evenness, species richness, Margalef index, Brillouin, Equitability,
Fisher alpha, Berger paker and dominant index were performed using Paleontological
Statistics software package (version 2.10 for windows, PAST, copy right (Hammer
et al., 2001).
Microalgal diversity: A total of 97 micro algal species belonging to
three families (Cyanophyceae, Chlorophyceae and Bacillariophyceae) were detected
from all the locations (Table 1). Out of the 97 species detected,
18 species were diatoms, 37 were green algae and 41 were cyanobacteria. A maximum
of 30 species of 24 genera were recorded from the Kodaikanal, followed by 31
species of 12 genera from the Kolli hills, 24 species belonging to 16 genera
from the Gudalur and 75 species of 46 genera from the Agesthiyar falls. As per
the diversity and abundance of microalgae, the members of the order Nostocals
were the dominant species in all the samples. The most abundant groups were
Cyanophyta (52.0%; dominated by Aphanothece nidulans, Chroococcus
turgidus, Hydrococcus rivularis, Oscillatoria princeps,
Nostocmuscorum, N. punteforme, Nostoccommune, Gloeotrichiaechinulata,
Scytonemaschmidtii, Tolypothrix tenuis and Calothrix braunii),
Bacillariophyta (20%; dominated by Navicula hallophyla, Rhophaldia
gebrella, Fragellaria intermedia, Pinnularia virdis, Nitzchia
palliae) and Chlorophyta (28%; dominated by Chlorella sp., Gloeocystis
sp., Pediastrum boryanum, Scenedesmus bijugatus, Cosmarium
undulatum, Micrasterias americana, Euastrum elegans, Staurastrum
aanisacanthum, Closterium parvulum (Plate 1 and
Physical and chemical characteristics: Physico-chemical analysis of water revealed that the water temperature ranged from 20°C to 33°C, pH ranged from 5.8 to 7.9, dissolved oxygen from 6.0 to 10.0 mg L-1, alkalinity (carbonate from 0.0 to 4.0 mg L-1 and bicarbonate 0.9 to 2.9 mg L-1), nitrate from 0.24 to 26 mg L-1, silica from 1.0 to 6.1 mg L-1, phosphate 0.04 to 0.1 mg L-1, chloride 0.4 to 6.0 mg L-1 in all the hill stations. The rich concentration of nutrient such as sulphates (0.05-0.30 mg L-1), calcium (0.6 -12 mg L-1), magnesium (0.2 -0.8 mg L-1), sodium (0.6 -2.1 mg L-1) and potassium (0.20-0.65 mg L-1) has been observed in all hill stations with increased concentration during the study period.
Correlation between microalgae abundance and physico-chemical parameters: Correlation co efficient matrix is calculated among 16 physico-chemical parameters (Table 2). The positive correlation of microalgae with Temp., pH, dissolved oxygen, bicarbonate, silica and potassium. Negative correlation of microalgae with Ec, carbonate, nitrate, phosphate, chloride, sodium, suggests that the microalgae population is dependent on the nutrient rich hills water.
Biodiversity indices analysis: Values for Simpson Index (d) varied between 0.94-0.97, Menhinicks Index 4.3 -6.0, Shannon and Wiener diversity index (Hs) 3.0 -3.6, Species Equitability (j) 0.97-0.98, Species Evenness (S) 0.91 B0.95, Menhinick index 4.3 B 6.0, Margalef index 6.4-10.4, Berger parker index 0.06-0.11 (Fig. 2).
In the present study, species diversity and abundance of microalgal populations
and their relationships with physico-chemical variation could be demonstrated
considering high altitude regions. The diversity is influenced by geographical
factors (latitude, altitude), environmental factors (Fierer
and Jakson, 2006). A total 97 species were recorded only 16.5% (18 species)
were heterocystous, but, of these Nostoc commune, Nostoc kihlmanii,
Scytonema myochrous, Rivularia minutula, Stigonema minutum
were often abundant. Jones (1989) has demonstrated
that N2 -fixation is sensitive to water stress.
|| List of microalgae species in all Western Ghats regions
|+++ Abundant , + present, - absent
|| Diversity indices of microalgae at four sites of Western
As many as 23 species viz Aphanothece microscopica, Chroococcus
minutus, Coelospharium dubium, Hydrococcus rivularis, Oscillatoria
princeps, Nostoc muscorum, Nostoc puncteforme, Nostoc commune,
Gleotricha gausii, Calothrix braunii, Rivellaria sp., Tolypothrix
tenuis, Scytonema schmidtii, Chlorella sp., scenedesmus
sp., pediastrum duplex, cosmarium consperum, Euastrum elagans,
micrasterias Americana, Fragellaria intermedia, Nitzahia palliate,
Vavicula hallophyla, Rhophaladia gebrella, Pinnularia virdis,
were considered as versatile species in all altitudes.
||(a) Chrococcus turgidus, (b) Aphanocapsa muscicola,
(c) Microcystis robusta, (d) Oscillatoria princeps, (e) Oscillatoria
quadripunctuta, (f) Aulosira sp., (g) Anabaena gelatinicola,
(h) Nostoc spongiaeforme, (i) Nostoc commune, (j) Nostoc
moscorum, (k) Calothrix braunii, (l) Tolypothrix tenuis,
(m) Scytonema schmidtii and (n) Dichlothrix orsiniana
||(a) Pandorina moram, (b) Cosmarium botryti,
(c) Cosmarium subcucumis, (d) Scenedesmus aculeolatus, (e)
Pediastrum simplex, (f) Pediastrum boryanum, (g) Micrasterias
Americana, (h) Closterium pavulum, (i) Staurastrum anisacanthum,
(j) Trichelomonos sp, (k) Pinnularia aerosphaeria, (l) Gomphonema
olivilus (m) Achninthushauckina, (n) Navicula hallophyla,
(o) Fragillaria intermedia
||Correlation coefficient between total microalgal species and
physic-chemical parameters in western ghats region
|Correlation is significant at the 0.05 level (2-tailed). **
Correlation is significant at the 0.01 level (2-tailed). Temp: Temperature,
EC: Electrical conductivity, No3; Nitrate, po4: phosphate, Cl: Chloride,
So4: Sulphate, Si: Silica, Ca: Calcium, Mg: Magnesium, Na: Sodium, K: potassium
TAS: Total algal species
|| Percentage of microalgae in the four locations of Western
Ghats during the study period
The present study brings out that the members of the order Nostocales were
in abundance at all sampling location. The maximum percentage of Nostocales
has been recorded from Gudalur (10%) , whereas minimum from Kolli hills (3%).
The members of Chroococcales were at the second position in respect to abundance.
Kolli hills has (7%) of order Chroococcales, which was the highest number of
Chroococcales recorded from the area. As against this, Agasthiyar falls, Kodaikanal
and Gudalur have (3%), (6%) and (6%) members, respectively. The maximum percentage
of Desmids has been recorded from Agasthiyar falls (12%), whereas minimum from
Gudalur (2%). Kodaikanal and Kolli hills showed (4%) and (3%), respectively
(Fig. 3). The members of Diatoms are at the third position
in respect to abundance. Kolli hills has (17%) members, which was the highest
number of Diatom recorded from the area. As against this, Agasthiyar falls,
Kodaikanal and Gudalur have (5%), (8%) and (5%) members, respectively. Rest
two orders, Chamaesiphonales and Stigonematales show a comparatively poor distribution
of cyanobacterial members, whereas no members of order Pleurocapsales have been
recorded from any sampling sites. It is clear from the above discussion that
the members of Nostocales were in abundance with a record of 97 species from
21 genera and 5 families. Nostocales is followed by Chroococcales on the basis
of the number of the species. Microalgae species were abundantly present in
high altitude regions, it may be due to the high soil pH, high temperature and
high UV radiation (Whitton and Potts, 2000). The light
and temperature conditions have a direct effect on the population dynamics of
microalgal flora. Bright light favours the growth the members of order Chroococcales,
whereas dim light enhance the presence of the members of order Nostocales. Similarly,
a moderate temperature between 20-40°C was found suitable for the luxurious
growth of cyanobacterial taxa at all the sites (Khare, 2007).
Similar type of observation was made by (Rehakova et
al., 2011) in the Microalgal diversity in dry mountains of ladakh, Himalaya.
Cyanobacterial tolerance of intense sunlight including UV radiation may have
contributed to their success in colonizing high-altitude and high-latitude environments
(Sinha and Hader, 2002). Species composition was significantly
influenced by altitude, particularly for the orders Nostocales and Chroococcales.
Nostocales are usually thought to be able to colonize young undeveloped soils
because of their ability to fix nitrogen (Whitton and Potts,
2000) which may be the limiting nutrient in this type of soil. Perhaps Nostoc
was better adapted than many other phototrophs to cryoturbation and desiccation
because it has a well-developed mucilaginous sheath, which protects against
the cold and desiccation. Nostoc might also do well at high altitudes
because its biovolume is independent on the concentration of organic matter,
unlike Oscillatoria (Fig. 2). The Chroococcales may
have increased with altitude because, as unicellular organisms with rapid growth
rates (Nielsen, 2006) they do not require a stable
substrate with a fine texture and high organic matter content . In contrast,
Oscillatoriales decreased with altitude. Oscillatoriales are more abundant in
finer textured soils that contain relatively high concentrations of organic
matter, as is typical for alpine meadows, which occurred in the lower altitudes
in the current study. Desmids are considered to be very sensitive group of phytoplankton.
They are unable to withstand even negligible changes in the quality of aquatic
habitats. Seenayya (1971) reported that eutrophic waters
do not support the growth of desmids. Karikal (1995)
found that soft waters with low nutrients favor the growth of desmids. Zafar
(1967) suggested that the water temperature plays an important role in the
growth of desmids. Rao (1975) stated that the temperature
range between 27 and 30°C is favourable for better development of desmids.
In the present study the temperature in Agesthiyar falls was found 33 to 35°C
which may favour the growth of Desmids. Karikal (1995)
and Sunkad (2002) reported that calcium does not seem
to support the growth of Desmids. In the present study, the Mg content in Gudalur
was found between 0.6 mg to 3.5 mg L-1 which may have inhibited the
growth of desmids.
The biodiversity of microalgae in India are still very fragmentary, especially in the moist soil and hill water. Most papers have focused on freshwater algae, such as those from Lakes, ponds, or from paddy field in Tamilnadu. The study was focused on the microalgae at high altitude. Our study from Western Ghats, Eastern Ghats India, has shown that high altitude algae form complex communities with specific environmental associations. Our results will be useful for designing future monitoring schemes and for assessing the effects of global change in these diverse but poorly studied locations in Tamilnadu.
The authors are thankful to Bharathidasan University Research Fellowship (URF) and Department of Biotechnology (DBT) Govt. of India, New Delhi for their financial assistance.
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