Use of dried algae as a food source for zooplankton growth and nutrient release experiments

Dean R. Dobberfuhl, James Elser

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Scopus citations


Zooplankton growth and nutrient recycling are key processes in the operation of pelagic extensive laboratory facilities. Most studies investigating these processes rely on complex methods and often require extensive laboratory facilities. Here we introduce a technique for preserving algae by rapid drying for later use in laboratory- or field-based growth and nutrient recycling experiments. Chemostat-grown Scenedesmus acutus was rapidly dried for later experiments evaluating its nutritional composition, suitability for animal growth and potential for use in nutrient release experiments. Reconstituted dried algae had slightly lower nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P) and protein content (% dry weight) than fresh algae but lipid content did not differ and elemental ratios were in the range considered to indicate favorable food quality. These elemental and biochemical differences did not appear functionally important, as Daphnia magna grew identically on fresh and dried food. Freeze-dried S.acutus did not work as an alternative to oven drying as it resulted in 100% mortality. NH4 and PO4 concentrations did not change over 24 h when dried algae were resuspended in normal media or boiled lake water. However, concentrations of PO4 decreased over 24 h, suggesting chemical adsorption of PO4 to the dried algae and reinforcing the need for animal-free controls in nutrient release experiments using this approach. N and P release rates for D.magna and natural zooplankton communities were estimated using dried algae, and values were comparable to published ones. Thus, dried algae amy be a useful, simple technique for studying food quality and nutrient release in environments where maintaining active algal cultures may not be practical and a constant supply of consistent quality food is needed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)957-970
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Plankton Research
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Aquatic Science
  • Ecology


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