Effects of sediment nutrients and depth on small-scale spatial heterogeneity of submersed macrophyte communities...
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Ostrofsky, Milton L.
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Sediment concentrations of total and available nitrogen (N), phosphorus (P), and potassium (K) and organic matter from the littoral zone of Lake Pleasant, Pennsylvania, were highly variable. Only organic matter and total N were correlated with depth, however. This result suggests the existence of more complex environmental gradients than the prevailing paradigm of monotonic changes in sediment characteristics with increasing depth. The spatial heterogeneity of submersed aquatic plant communities was significantly correlated with depth, and available N and P. Canonical correspondence analysis demonstrated that these three factors explained 38% of the variance in community structure. Other sediment characteristics (available K, organic matter, and total N, P and K) were not significant by themselves, but all variables combined explained 63% of community-structure variance. Cluster analysis identified species or groups of species typical of endpoints on the depth versus nutrient axes. Myriophyllum exalbescens was typical of deep sites with relatively nutrient-rich sediments, whereas deep nutrient-poor sites were dominated by Vallisneria americana and Megalodonta beckii. Shallow nutrient-rich sites were dominated by several species of Potamogeton and Elodea canadensis, and shallow nutrient-poor sites were dominated by Heteranthera dubia and Najas flexilis. These results demonstrate the importance of sediment characteristics in determining macrophytes’ community structure within lakes.