Long-term changes in abundance and diversity of macrophyte and waterfowl populations in an estuary with exotic macrophytes and improving water quality

Rybicki, Nancy B., Jurate M. Landwehr

Limnol. Oceanogr., 52(3), 2007, 1195-1207 | DOI: 10.4319/lo.2007.52.3.1195

ABSTRACT: We assessed species-specific coverage (km2) of a submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) community in the fresh and upper oligohaline Potomac Estuary from 1985 to 2001 using a method combining field observations of species-proportional coverage data with congruent remotely sensed coverage and density (percent canopy cover) data. Biomass (estimated by density-weighted coverage) of individual species was calculated. Under improving water quality conditions, exotic SAV species did not displace native SAV; rather, the percent of natives increased over time. While coverage-based diversity did fluctuate and increased, richness-based community turnover rates were not significantly different from zero. SAV diversity was negatively related to nitrogen concentration. Differences in functional traits, such as reproductive potential, between the dominant native and exotic species may explain some interannual patterns in SAV. Biomass of native, as well as exotic, SAV species varied with factors affecting water column light attenuation. We also show a positive response by a higher trophic level, waterfowl, to SAV communities dominated by exotic SAV from 1959 to 2001.

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