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Vegetation management and benthic macroinvertebrate communities in urban stormwater ponds: implications for regional biodiversity


Designed ecosystems (e.g., gardens or engineered ponds) are increasingly common components of urban landscapes and contribute valuable ecosystem services. However, management of designed ecosystems is typically vegetation-centric and often does not consider associated fauna. Urban ponds typify this relationship as their vegetation is managed to improve ecosystem services, such as aesthetics and stormwater runoff mitigation, but it is unclear how pond management affects associated organisms. Here, we used urban stormwater ponds as a study system to determine how vegetation management related to benthic macroinvertebrate communities in these systems. We compared macroinvertebrates across a range of actively managed to unmanaged stormwater ponds and differentiated direct relationships with vegetation structure from indirect relationships of vegetation modulating pond chemistry. Pond vegetation and chemistry had little influence on macroinvertebrate abundance or diversity but did explain substantial variability in community composition (34%). Actively managed stormwater ponds with simpler vegetation structure were dominated by Amphipoda (scuds) and Diptera (primarily midges), unmanaged ponds with more complex structure were dominated by Oligochaeta (worms), and ponds with intermediate structure were dominated by a variety of macroinvertebrates. These community associations with vegetation management primarily occurred indirectly via changes in pond chemistry, such as unmanaged ponds with higher tree and shrub cover harboring macroinvertebrates characteristic of low oxygen environments. Additionally, variation in management maximized community differences because different macroinvertebrate orders dominated at different management intensities. Variability in the management intensity of plant communities in stormwater ponds may therefore be a feasible strategy to enhance regional benthic macroinvertebrate biodiversity in urban landscapes.

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Data is publicly available from the Institutional Repository at the University of Florida at


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We would like to thank Marie-Josée Létourneau for producing the commissioned artwork used in Fig. 6, and for agreeing to its publication. Thanks to the City of Gainesville and Alachua County Public Works, the School Board of Alachua County, and the citizens of Gainesville for their assistance. Thanks also to K. Lawlor, N. Tripp, C. Morris, and A. Holmes for assistance with macroinvertebrate collection and sorting.


This work was supported by the Florida Agricultural Experiment Station, the UF|IFAS Program for Resource Efficient Communities, the UF|IFAS Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences Program, and a USDA McIntire-Stennis Capacity Grant (#1012120).

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This manuscript involved equal effort from the BVI (including JSS) and LSR labs. JSS collected the vegetation and chemistry data, conducted the analyses, and wrote portions of the manuscript. LSR collected the macroinvertebrate community data and wrote portions of the manuscript. CRA contributed to the vegetation survey design and edited the manuscript. EB contributed to pond selection study design and edited the manuscript. AJR supervised sediment and water quality analyses and edited the manuscript. BVI funded and supervised the study and wrote portions of the manuscript. All authors contributed to the design of the study and interpretation of results.

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Correspondence to James S. Sinclair or Basil V. Iannone III.

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Sinclair, J.S., Reisinger, L.S., Adams, C.R. et al. Vegetation management and benthic macroinvertebrate communities in urban stormwater ponds: implications for regional biodiversity. Urban Ecosyst 24, 725–735 (2021).

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  • Urban biodiversity
  • Designed ecosystem
  • Stormwater pond
  • Macroinvertebrate
  • Vegetation management
  • Community turnover