Pond turtle carapaces, an alternative natural substrate for the use of a diatom-based water quality index
V. Vassal, L. Ector, B. Van de Vijver, V. Roubeix, A. Olivier, S. Pauvert, C. Roy, and S. Fayolle
Botany Letters, doi:10.1080/23818107.2020.1724825, 2020
Benthic diatoms are widely used as bio-indicators in water quality monitoring of rivers and streams, but less commonly in lentic waterbodies such as pools and lakes. Currently, a new method for assessing the ecological status of lakes is being tested in France to meet the requirements of the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) 2000/60/EC. This new method uses epilithic and epiphytic diatoms growing on stones and aquatic plants. Alternatively, freshwater turtles and the epizoic algae found on their carapaces may provide an excellent substrate for estimating water quality. Our study proposes an original diatom-based method for assessing the quality of water bodies in which turtles live. The main objective was to compare the Biological Diatom Index (BDI) values measured from epizoic diatom samples taken on the carapace of turtles with classical epilithic or epiphytic samples. Epizoic samples were taken from the carapaces of the turtle Emys orbicularis in two shallow French Mediterranean wetlands. Our results indicate that diatom assemblages differ slightly within the three substrates studied with limited variations in index value. However, some variability among epizoic samples from the same site suggests that several turtle individuals should be sampled for water quality biomonitoring.