On-line version ISSN 1816-7950
Print version ISSN 0378-4738
Epipelic diatom flora was sampled around the South African coast between the Olifants Estuary, on the cool Atlantic Ocean northwest coast, and the St. Lucia Estuary, on the Indian Ocean northeast coast. Altogether, 333 taxa were identified with 14 being ubiquitous, as they were found in the cool temperate, warm temperate, and subtropical areas, as well as in St. Lucia Estuary situated close to Mocambique. There was little difference between the epipelic diatom species present in intertidal and subtidal areas and, because many of the species have a high tolerance to salinity, with some being found in conditions ranging from freshwater to a salinity of more than 150 psu, it was concluded that many of the species sampled do not appear to be reliable indicators for assessing salinity in South African estuaries. Although there was a wide spread of diatoms across all of the estuaries around the coast, the greatest species similarity occurred between the Olifants, Great Berg and Breede estuaries, suggesting that the Breede Estuary, normally considered to fall within the warm temperate region, may be more similar to the cool temperate type estuaries. Data also showed that there was very little similarity between the diatom flora in the rivers flowing into estuaries and the diatom flora in the estuaries.
Keywords : diatoms; distribution; estuary; epipelon; salinity; temperature; tidal.