, Volume 243, Issue 1, pp 293–301 | Cite as

Indirect effects of fish community structure on submerged vegetation in shallow, eutrophic lakes: an alternative mechanism

  • Christer Brönmark
  • Stefan E. B. Weisner
Interactions Between Trophic Levels


The loss of submerged macrophytes during eutrophication of shallow lakes is a commonly observed phenomenon. The proximate reason for this decline is a reduction of available light due to increasing phytoplankton and/or epiphyton biomass. Here we argue that the ultimate cause for the transition from a macrophyte-dominated state to a phytoplankton-dominated state is a change in fish community structure. A catastrophic disturbance event (e.g. winterkill) acting selectively on piscivores, cascades down food chains, eventually reducing macrophyte growth through shading by epiphyton, an effect that is reinforced by increasing phytoplankton biomass. The transition back from the phytoplankton to the macrophyte state depends on an increase in piscivore standing stock and a reduction of planktivores. A conceptual model of these mechanisms is presented and supported by literature data and preliminary observations from a field experiment.

Key words

Fish community structure vegetation eutrophic lakes 


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1992

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christer Brönmark
    • 1
  • Stefan E. B. Weisner
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EcologyUniversity of Lund, Ecology BuildingLundSweden

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