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The effect of aquatic vegetation on turbidity; how important are the filter feeders?

  • Marten Scheffer
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Part of the Developments in Hydrobiology book series (DIHY, volume 143)

Abstract

A review of the literature suggests that aquatic macrophytes can enhance water clarity and reduce phytoplankton biomass through shading, reduction of nutrient availability, excretion of allelopathic substances and reduction of resuspension. In addition, vegetation fields are reported to enhance grazing on phytoplankton by providing a daytime refuge against fish predation for planktonic filter feeders such as Daphnia and by providing a suitable habitat for macrophyte associated filter feeders such as Sida crystallina, Eurycercus lamellatus and Simocephalus velutus. I use a graphical and a simple mathematical model to explore how top-down control by these grazers may interact with the effect of reduced phytoplankton production due to the other factors mentioned. The analysis suggests that grazing tends to be an all-or-none effect, driving phytoplankton to a very low biomass once a certain threshold level of grazing pressure is exceeded. This threshold level is predicted to increase with the productivity of the phytoplankton. Thus, the model suggests that, in plant beds, productivity reducing factors such as shading and reduced nutrient concentrations can pave the way for top-down control of phytoplankton even by a relatively moderate population of filter-feeders, and that phytoplankton biomass will decrease sharply beyond a critical macrophyte (or grazer) density. Indeed such a discontinuous response is observed in field experiments. Also, the idea that filter feeding cladocerans such as Daphnia play a key role is in line with the observation that brackish lakes where Daphnia does not thrive tend to be turbid despite the often dense weed beds.

Key words

macrophytes turbidity phytoplankton zooplankton nutrients phosphorus model grazing top-down control 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 1999

Authors and Affiliations

  • Marten Scheffer
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Aquatic Ecology and Water Quality ManagementWageningen Agricultural UniversityWageningenThe Netherlands

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