Interaction between the macrophyte Stratiotes aloides and filamentous algae: does it indicate allelopathy?

G. Mulderij, B. Mau, L.N. De Senerpont Domis, A.J.P. Smolders, E. Van Donk

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The aquatic macrophyte Stratiotes aloides Linnaeus, which has recently received attention in studies on allelopathy, has been shown to suppress phytoplankton growth. In the Netherlands, S. aloides often co-occurs with floating filamentous algae. However, filamentous algae are generally absent in close proximity to S. aloides, resulting in gaps in filamentous algae mats. We analyzed whether those gaps may be caused by allelopathic substances excreted by S. aloides or by nutrient depletion. We studied in a field survey the colonization of natural S. aloides by filamentous algae and determined in situ nutrient concentrations in natural S. aloides stands. To analyze the relative importance of allelopathy and nutrient competition in the interaction between S. aloides and filamentous algae, we carried out field experiments. Introduction of artificial (non-allelopathic) plants in natural S. aloides stands enabled us to compare the colonization by filamentous algae of both Stratiotes sp. and artificial plants. The filamentous algae were absent in close vicinity to S. aloides. Significantly lower concentrations of ortho-phosphate and potassium were observed close to S. aloides as compared with the filamentous algae. In the field experiments the artificial plants were rapidly colonized by filamentous algae, mainly Cladophera Kützing and Spirogyra Link, while all natural plants remained free of such algae. Additionally, most nutrient concentrations did not significantly differ in the proximity of artificial or natural stands of S. aloides. The concentrations of the major growth-limiting nutrients, phosphate and nitrate, were significantly higher and nonlimiting in natural Stratiotes stands. Our main conclusion is that, although allelopathic interactions between S. aloides and filamentous algae do occur under natural conditions, nutrient competition between the two can also be an important factor.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)305-312
JournalAquatic Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009


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