, Volume 600, Issue 1, pp 77–87 | Cite as

Differential influence of a monotypic and diverse native aquatic plant bed on a macroinvertebrate assemblage; an experimental implication of exotic plant induced habitat

  • Heather J. Theel
  • Eric D. DibbleEmail author
  • John D. Madsen
Primary research paper


Aquatic plants mediate ecological processes in aquatic habitats, specifically predator–prey (bluegill sunfish (Lepomis macrochirus Rafinesque)-macroinvertebrate) interactions. Macroinvertebrate colonization is directly and indirectly influenced by substrate heterogeneity, interstitial space, and surface complexity. Exotic invasive plant species, such as Hydrilla verticillata L.F. Royle, may alter the available structure in aquatic habitat by creating a shift to a homogeneous habitat, thus affecting the macroinvertebrate community. Since macroinvertebrates provide a food base for young phytophilic fishes, changes in their density and abundance may alter food webs. We investigated the hypothesis that macroinvertebrate community structure is influenced by differences in habitat heterogeneity by measuring difference between a heterogeneous native aquatic plant bed, homogenous hydrilla plant bed, and habitat with no plants. Studies were conducted in the field (pond) and the experimental treatments were: (1) no plants, (2) monotypic bed of hydrilla, and (3) diverse native plants. Aquatic plants, regardless of species, supported greater macroinvertebrate abundance, richness, and biomass. Macroinvertebrate abundance, richness, and biomass in a hydrilla-dominated habitat did not differ significantly from a diverse plant habitat, except for richness in October. Indicator taxa did differ significantly between respective treatments, suggesting a change in species composition. However, no significant effect of fish predation on macroinvertebrate populations and/or community structure was documented. The data suggest that a shift from a natural mosaic of vegetated habitat to a highly complex monotypic habitat (e.g., exotic hydrilla) may reduce spatial heterogeneity important to structuring a macroinvertebrate assemblage.


Habitat complexity Heterogeneity Hydrilla verticillata Macroinvertebrate–plant interaction 



We thank L. D’Abramo and B. Leopold for their valuable editorial comments. Much appreciation goes to B. LaValley and A. Wiseman for their support in the laboratory at processing macroinvertebrate samples, and to A. Perret and R. Theel for assisting in the field. This research was supported by the U.S. Geological Survey Biological Resources Discipline Invasive Species Program, under award number 04HQAG013504101049. We thank MAFES personnel at Mississippi State University's Aquaculture facility.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Heather J. Theel
    • 1
  • Eric D. Dibble
    • 1
    Email author
  • John D. Madsen
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Wildlife and FisheriesMississippi State UniversityMississippi StateUSA
  2. 2.GeoResources InstituteMississippi State UniversityMississippi StateUSA

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