Biological Invasions

, Volume 17, Issue 7, pp 2123–2138 | Cite as

Effects of Elodea nuttallii on temperate freshwater plants, microalgae and invertebrates: small differences between invaded and uninvaded areas

  • Ruth KellyEmail author
  • Chris Harrod
  • Christine A. Maggs
  • Neil Reid
Original Paper


The invasive aquatic plant species Elodea nuttallii could pose a considerable risk to European freshwater ecosystems based on its current distribution, rate of spread and potential for high biomass. However, little research has been conducted on the impacts of this species on native biota. This study takes an ecosystem-wide approach and examines the impact of E. nuttallii on selected physicochemical parameters (dissolved oxygen and pH), algae, invertebrate and macrophyte communities. Elodea nuttallii had small but significant impacts on plant, invertebrate and algal species. The richness of algal periphyton was lower on E. nuttallii than on native macrophytes. The taxonomic composition of invertebrate communities associated with E. nuttallii differed from that associated with similar native plant species, but did not differ in terms of total biomass or species richness. Macrophyte species richness and total cover were positively correlated with percentage cover of E. nuttallii. Not all macrophyte species responded in the same way to E. nuttallii invasion; cover of the low-growing species, Elodea canadensis and charophytes were negatively correlated with E. nuttallii cover, whilst floating-rooted plants were positively correlated with E. nuttallii cover. All observed differences in the macrophyte community were small relative to other factors such as nutrient levels, inter-annual variation and differences between sites. Despite this, the observed negative association between E. nuttallii and charophytes is a key concern due to the rarity and endangered status of many charophyte species.


Algae Aquatic Invasion Limnology Macroinvertebrate Macrophyte 



This research was funded by the Natural Heritage Research Partnership (NHRP) between the Northern Ireland Environment Agency (NIEA) and Quercus, Queen’s University Belfast (QUB) under a PhD studentship (QU08-05). Water chemistry analyses for the field study were conducted by the Agri-Food and Biosciences Institute, Newforge Lane, Belfast. Data from Lough Erne surveys were kindly supplied by Brenda Walker of the NIEA. Thanks to Irena Tománková for her assistance with invertebrate identification. We also thank our NIEA client officers, John Early and Tony Waterman, for their support. Thanks also to two anonymous reviewers whose advice substantially improved this manuscript.

Supplementary material

10530_2015_865_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (244 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 244 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing Switzerland 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruth Kelly
    • 1
    Email author
  • Chris Harrod
    • 2
    • 3
  • Christine A. Maggs
    • 2
  • Neil Reid
    • 1
    • 2
    • 4
  1. 1.Quercus, School of Biological SciencesQueen’s University BelfastBelfastUK
  2. 2.School of Biological SciencesQueen’s University BelfastBelfastUK
  3. 3.Instituto de Ciencias Naturales Alexander Von HumboldtUniversidad de AntofagastaAntofagastaChile
  4. 4.Institute of Global Food Security (IGFS)Queen’s University BelfastBelfastUK

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