Plant and Soil

, Volume 256, Issue 1, pp 13–28

An ecological perspective of allelochemical interference in land–water interface communities


    • Department of Biological SciencesMississippi State University
  • Robert G. Wetzel
    • Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, School of Public HealthUniversity of North Carolina

DOI: 10.1023/A:1026253128812

Cite this article as:
Ervin, G.N. & Wetzel, R.G. Plant and Soil (2003) 256: 13. doi:10.1023/A:1026253128812


Allelochemical interactions among aquatic macrophytes and between macrophytes and attached microbial assemblages (epiphyton) influence a number of ecological processes. The ecological importance of these interactions, however, is poorly understood; we hypothesize that paucity has resulted, in part, from (1) a narrow focus on exploration for herbicidal plant products from aquatic macrophytes, (2) the difficulties in distinguishing resource competition from allelopathic interference, and (3) a predominance of approaching aquatic allelopathy from a terrestrial perspective. Based upon recent thorough investigations of allelopathy among aquatic vascular plants, chemical compounds that influence competitive interactions among littoral organisms are amphiphilic compounds that tend to remain near the producing organism (e.g., polyphenolic compounds and volatile fatty acids). Production of these compounds may be influenced by relative availability of nutrients (particularly phosphorus and nitrogen), inorganic carbon, and light. Macrophyte strategies of clonal reproduction, in an effort to persist in these highly productive and competitive habitats, have contributed to reduced reliance upon sexual reproduction that is correlated with allelopathic autotoxicity among several dominant wetland plant species. Although few studies document the importance of allelochemical interactions in the wetland and littoral zones of aquatic ecosystems, abundant evidence supports the potential for significant effects on competition and community structure; effects of altered nutrient ratios and availability on plant chemical composition; and resultant effects on trophic interactions, particularly suppression of herbivory, competitive attached algae and cyanobacteria, and heterotrophic utilization of organic matter by bacteria and fungi.

allelochemical aquatic allelopathy aquatic ecosystems autotoxicity epiphytes macrophytes plant competition wetland plants

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© Kluwer Academic Publishers 2003