Submerged Rootless Macrophytes Sustain a Stable State Against Free-Floating Plants

Sándor Szabó, Gergő Koleszár, Mihály Braun, Zoltán Nagy, Tibor T. Vicei, Edwin T.H.M. Peeters*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


Both non-rooted submerged vegetation dominated by coontail (Ceratophyllum demersum) and non-rooted floating duckweed vegetation (Lemna gibba) can maintain their stable dominance in small ponds and channels. We examined the competitive interactions between them and how Ceratophyllum can sustain its stable state against floating plants in a range of nutrient concentrations. Coontail and duckweed were co-cultured in static and semi-static microcosm experiments, and their impact on the nutrients (N, P, Fe, Mn) in the water column was analysed. Coontail strongly reduced the growth of duckweed under a low nitrogen level (0.2–2 mg N L−1). This reduction seems to be due to the low availability of nutrients in the water as derived from the lower nutrient concentrations in duckweed tissue or high pH in water. High nitrogen levels in semi-static media (5–10 mg N L−1) resulted in an increasingly higher chance to overgrow C. demersum by L. gibba. Field observations revealed that C. demersum dominated over L. gibba in water bodies with total N below 3 mg L−1, while L. gibba dominance over C. demersum occurred above 5 mg L−1 total N. Ceratophyllum occurrence correlated negatively with total N in the water, while Lemna showed a positive correlation. Furthermore, the occurrence of L. gibba was negatively correlated with the frequency of C. demersum. All findings together support the theory that under a certain nutrient range, rootless submerged macrophytes have a strong potential to inhibit the dominance of floating plants in ponds, ditches and channels, and thus, they stabilize the submerged vegetation state.

Original languageEnglish
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 4 May 2021


  • ceratophyllum
  • competition
  • floating plants
  • lemna
  • nutrient limitation
  • stable state
  • submerged macrophytes


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