Environmental conditions and phosphorus removal in Florida lakes and wetlands inhabited by Hydrilla verticillata (Royle): implications for invasive species management
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Hydrilla verticillata is considered the most problematic aquatic plant in the United States. In south Florida, Hydrilla dominance has also been documented in treatment wetlands. This paper characterizes (1) environmental conditions which favor Hydrilla growth and (2) understand its nutrient removal capability. Despite its occurrence over a wide range of environmental conditions, Hydrilla abundance increased with increasing pH, alkalinity, total P and total N, and decreased with water depth in selected Florida lakes. No relationship was found between color, Secchi depth and Hydrilla abundance. In several Hydrilla-dominated lakes, mean total P concentration (126 μg/l) at inflow was reduced to 106 μg/l at outflow. The maximum inflow total P concentration in a lake with positive nutrient reduction was 148 μg/l. Total P removal efficiency by Hydrilla-dominated lakes and wetlands was comparable to or higher than systems dominated by emergent and other submerged plants. Mean total P settling rates for lakes and a constructed wetland dominated by Hydrilla were estimated at 19 and 34 m/year, respectively, which were higher than or comparable to similar systems dominated by other aquatic plants. Results from this study suggest that reduction of Hydrilla from constructed wetlands will not likely improve nutrient removal performance.