Reduction of benthic macroinvertebrates due to waterfowl foraging on submerged vegetation during autumn migration

Ola Marklund, Håkan Sandsten

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If present in large numbers, as during migration, herbivorous waterfowlmay reduce the amount of submerged vegetation. Because the vegetation is a keyfactor in shallow eutrophic lakes, removal of the green biomass can be expectedto affect also other biota that depend on the vegetation. We conducted anexperiment to determine how the abundance of chironomids andPisidium sp. were affected by intense foraging ofwaterfowlon the submerged plant Potamogeton pectinatus. This wasdone in Lake Ringsjön in southern Sweden, during the autumn migration ofthe birds. Three treatments, replicated six times, were used: (i) closed cagesthat excluded all waterfowl, (ii) semi-open cages that excluded only largewaterfowl (geese and swans), and (iii) open plots where all waterfowl couldfreely enter. Waterfowl densities were monitored during the experiment. Theresults suggest that the foraging of large waterfowl (swans) had a clearlynegative effect on macroinvertebrate abundance and aboveground biomass ofP. pectinatus. At the end of the experiment, the densityofchironomids was about 46% lower in the open than in the closed cages. Ingeneral, the density of Pisidium sp. tended to be lower inthe open plots. Small waterfowl alone did not seem to affect either thevegetation or macroinvertebrates. We suggest that thePisidium sp. was influenced at an early stage of grazing,when waterfowl foraged on aboveground biomass, whereas chironomids wereaffectedat a later stage, when swans were digging for below-ground tubers.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)541-547
JournalAquatic Ecology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - 2002

Bibliographical note

The information about affiliations in this record was updated in December 2015.
The record was previously connected to the following departments: Limnology (Closed 2011) (011007000)

Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Ecology
  • Environmental Sciences


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