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Water SA

On-line version ISSN 0378-4738

Abstract

JONKER, CZ; VAN GINKEL, C  and  OLIVIER, J. Association between physical and geochemical characteristics of thermal springs and algal diversity in Limpopo Province, South Africa. Water SA [online]. 2013, vol.39, n.1, pp. 95-103. ISSN 0378-4738.

Algal species commonly occur in thermophilic environments and appear to have very wide geographical distributions. Presence of algal species is strongly influenced by temperature, pH and mineral content of thermal waters. No research has previously been documented on the algal diversity in South African thermal springs. This paper describes the algal distribution in 6 thermal springs in Limpopo Province, South Africa, and attempts to link this to the physical and geochemical properties of the springs. Water samples were collected from Mphephu, Siloam, Tshipise, Sagole, Eiland and Soutini thermal springs and algae identified. Temperature, pH and TDS were measured on site and water samples analysed for macro- and trace-elements. Cyanophyta was the algal group most often present, followed by Bacillariophyta, Chlorophyta, Euglenophyta and Dinophyta. Some of the algae were present in waters with pH ranging from 7.1-9.7 and temperatures ranging from 40-67°C. Others (the cyanobacteria and green algae: Nodularia, Schizothrix, Anacystis, Coelastrum, Chlorella and Spirogyra) only occurred in high temperature (60+°C) and pH>9 waters, while a number of diatoms (Synedra, Aulacoseira, Nitzschia, Cyclotella, Gyrosigma, Craticula) occurred exclusively at temperatures <45°C and pH values <8. Algae were also present in waters with fluoride values exceeding that which is considered safe for human consumption as well as in waters relatively rich in uranium, rubidium, vanadium and manganese. It was clear that the occurrence of algae coincided with specific geological formations. These algae could act as indicator species of geology and heavy metals.

Keywords : thermal springs; Limpopo Province; algae; diversity; geochemical.

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