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Floating-leaved and emergent vegetation as habitat for fishes in a eutrophic temperate lake without submerged vegetation


Although submerged vegetation is considered to be the most suitable refuge against predators and form of foraging habitat for small fishes, submerged plants are often scarce or lacking in turbid eutrophic lakes. To evaluate emergent (Zizania latifolia) and floating-leaved (Nelumbo nucifera) vegetation as refuge areas against predators and as foraging habitats for small fishes, we investigated the fauna, abundance, and size distribution of the fish community as well as the abundance of possible prey for small fishes in beds of each vegetation type in a eutrophic shallow lake: Lake Teganuma in Japan. The leaves and stems of N. nucifera occupied an area 4.2 times larger than that of Z. latifolia. The high coverage of the water surface with plants most likely induced the hypoxia found in the N. nucifera bed. The diversity of small fishes was greater in the Z. latifolia bed with piscivorous fish than in the N. nucifera bed without piscivorous fish. The diversity of fish species in the vegetation was enhanced when there was an increased diversity of possible food sources rather than an absence of predators. Some aquatic insects of the same species had a much lower δ13C signature at hypoxic locations than at less hypoxic locations in the N. nucifera bed. Such site differences within a bed were not observed in the organisms caught in the Z. latifolia bed. The insects in hypoxic zones with a δ13C signature lower than −30 ‰ were more depleted in 13C than the surface sediment or attached algae, suggesting that the larvae in the hypoxic zones incorporated the organic materials generated by methane-oxidizing bacteria. We can therefore conclude that floating-leaved vegetation, especially a N. nucifera bed, is not suitable as a replacement for submerged vegetation because of its potential to induce hypoxia, which can decrease the diversity of the fish fauna.

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We thank Yu Tabayahsi and Hidenori Naruoka for their technical assistance. Tomoko Hiratsuka, Akihisa Katsumura, Kazuki Abukawa, Takashi Komuro, Ryotaro Nakagawa, and Takashi Hori helped with the sampling and field observations. This study was supported by the River Fund of the Foundation of River and Watershed Environment Management (FOREM), Japan.

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Correspondence to Masumi Yamamuro.

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Handling Editor: Yoshinori Taniguchi.

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Yamaki, A., Yamamuro, M. Floating-leaved and emergent vegetation as habitat for fishes in a eutrophic temperate lake without submerged vegetation. Limnology 14, 257–268 (2013).

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  • Wetland
  • Anoxia
  • Floating-leaved vegetation
  • Nelumbo nucifera
  • Stable isotopes
  • Pseudorasbora parva