Center Stage: The Crucial Role of Macrophytes in Regulating Trophic Interactions in Shallow Lake Wetlands

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Abstract

Hydrophilic, or water-loving, macrophytes characterize wetland ecosystems, indicating prerequisite conditions of hydric soils and sufficient hydrology. The presence of such macrophytes is a key descriptor in multiple wetland def- initions (Lewis 2001a) and macrophytes may be further used to actually describe particular types of wetlands, such as cattail marshes. Macrophytes contribute significant biomass to wetland systems and represent a critical component of wetland biogeochemistry as primary producers and drivers of organic matter cycling within aquatic systems. In this chapter, we argue that macrophytes occupy the center of trophic interactions in shallow lakes, influ- encing outcomes through structural, behavioral and chemical interactions. We define shallow lakes as permanently flooded wetlands that often contain submerged or floating macrophytes and that may be surrounded by emergent vegetation (i.e.marshy habitat). Shallow remains a relative term in limnology circles, but typically is less than 3 m average depth, such that macrophytes can fill a substantial portion of the water column and stratification is neither pre- dictable nor long-term. Such systems may be termed lakes, ponds or wetlands, depending on their size and the ecological context. Macrophytes may regulate trophic interactions in ephemeral systems without permanent inundation.