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How free-floating macrophytes influence interactions between planktivorous fish and zooplankton in tropical environments? An in-lake mesocosm approach


In tropical climates, free-floating aquatic plants may dominate shallow lakes and affect trophic interactions between zooplankton and their predators have been presented as an important subject to be investigated. The present study used mesocosms within a tropical lake in rural São Paulo-Brazil to test the hypothesis that free-floating macrophytes (FFM) reduce predation pressure on prey, as these aquatic plants provide refuge and shade. Fish predation by Astyanax lacustris was observed with the presence and absence of the FFM Eicchornia crassipes over a period of 5 weeks. FFM promoted a more diverse community structure by providing new habitats, especially for small- to medium-sized littoral cladocerans. Tropocyclops prasinus meridionalis were more abundant with the presence of macrophytes. Furthermore, the size distribution of zooplankton differed between treatments at the end of the experiment, in which the larger organisms were less abundant in the treatment with FFM. The present study suggests that FFM affected the interactions between zooplankton and predators, but this influence occurred due to the macrophytes acting as refuge to smaller organisms rather than large-sized individuals. The results also indicated that the macrophytes influenced the zooplankton community by contributing to an increased species richness.

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We would like to thank all our colleagues from the Laboratório de Ecologia de Zooplâncton (Zooplankton Ecology Laboratory) during the field work, IBILCE/UNESP for providing its facilities, those responsible for the Fazenda Experimental of Pólo Regional Centro Norte, the anonymous reviewers, especially Mariana Meerhoff, the associate editor, for their comments on the manuscript. We thank “The São Paulo State Research Foundation (FAPESP) (process 2013/19848-0) for the financial support for this study. Finally, we would like to thank Dr. Dallas L. Flickinger for the English revision.


The research that led to the presented results was mainly financed by “The São Paulo State Research Foundation (FAPESP)” (Process Number 2013/19848-0), SNI (ANII-Uruguay) and by PEDECIBA, and CAPES which provided the scholarship awarded to the author during his Master’s degree.

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dos Santos, N.G., Stephan, L.R., Otero, A. et al. How free-floating macrophytes influence interactions between planktivorous fish and zooplankton in tropical environments? An in-lake mesocosm approach. Hydrobiologia (2020).

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  • Refuge
  • Trophic interactions
  • Predation
  • Daphnia laevis
  • Eichhornia crassipes