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Keywords:

  • 16S rRNA gene;
  • canonical correspondence analysis;
  • cyanobacterial community composition;
  • Guadarrama river;
  • phylogenetic relationships;
  • streams;
  • water quality

The occurrence and environmental factors responsible for the distribution of benthic cyanobacteria in running waters remain largely unexplored in comparison with those of other aquatic ecosystems. In this study, combined data of ecological characteristics, molecular analysis (based on 16S rRNA gene), and direct microscopic inspection of environmental samples were analyzed in parallel with the morphological characterization of the isolated strains to investigate benthic cyanobacterial diversity in the Guadarrama river (Spain). A total of 17 species were identified that belonged to the genera Aphanocapsa, Pleurocapsa, Chroococcus, Chamaesiphon, Cyanobium, Pseudan-abaena, Leptolyngbya, Phormidium, Nostoc, and Tolypothrix. Phenotypic features were associated with the results of 16S rRNA gene sequencing, complementing existing morphological and genetic databases. A decrease in the cyanobacterial diversity was observed along a pollution gradient in the river. Water quality differed among the sampling sites, and variation in nutrient content was the principal difference among locations. These characteristics were closely associated with an upstream-downstream eutrophic gradient. Canonical correspondence analysis distinguished three groups of species with respect to the eutrophication gradient. The first group (Tolypothrix cf. tenuis, Nostoc punctiforme, Nostoc piscinale, Chamaesiphon investiens, Chroococcus minor, Leptolyngbya nostocorum, and Leptolyngbya tenuis) was characteristic of waters with low levels of nutrients. The second group (Cyanobium sp., Chamaesiphon polymorphus, Leptolyngbya boryana, Phormidium autumnale, Phormidium sp., and Aphanocapsa cf. rivularis) was characteristic of polluted waters, its members appearing mainly in great abundance under eutrophic-hypertrophic conditions. The third group of species (Pseudanabaena catenata, Aphanocapsa muscicola, and Nostoc carneum) was present at upstream and downstream sites.