Submerged freshwater macrophytes decline with increasing eutrophication. This has consequences for ecosystem processes in shallow lakes and ponds as macrophytes can reduce algal blooms under eutrophic conditions. We hypothesize that the productivity of submerged vegetation, biomass change under eutrophication and the suppression of algal blooms may be affected by macrophyte community composition. To test our hypothesis, we established three macrophyte community types in 36 fishless experimental ponds: one dominated by the oligotrophic species Chara globularis, one dominated by the eutrophic species Potamogeton pectinatus and a diverse vegetation which became co-dominated by Elodea nuttallii and C. globularis, and we fertilized half of the ponds. The macrophyte communities produced different amounts of biomass and they responded differently to fertilization. The community dominated by Potamogeton produced the lowest overall biomass, but was not affected by nutrient addition. The communities dominated by Chara and co-dominated by Elodea and Chara produced more than four-fold the amount of biomass produced in Potamogeton communities under oligotrophic conditions, but were strongly negatively affected by nutrient addition. Phytoplankton abundance did not differ significantly among the plant community types, but showed large variation within community types. There was a significant negative relationship between spring macrophyte biomass and the probability of summer algal blooms. The occurrence of algal blooms coincided with low daphnid densities and high pH (>10). We conclude that the macrophyte community composition, characterized by the dominant species, strongly affected the amount of biomass production as well as the short-term response of the vegetation to nutrient enrichment. Macrophyte community composition had no direct effect on algal blooms, but can affect the occurrence of algal blooms indirectly as these occurred only in ponds with low (<100 g/m 2 DW) spring macrophyte biomass.
Elisabeth S. Bakker, E. Van Donk, Steven Declerck
Basic and Applied Ecology