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Hydrodynamically mediated macrophyte silica dynamics


  • Editor
    M. Hawkesford

J. Schoelynck, UA – Campus Drie Eiken, Ecosystem Management Research Group, Universiteitsplein 1, Building C, C2.14, B – 2610 Wilrijk, Belgium.


In most aquatic ecosystems, hydrodynamic conditions are a key abiotic factor determining species distributions and abundance of aquatic plants. Resisting stress and keeping an upright position often relies on investment in tissue reinforcement, which is costly to produce. Silica could provide a more economical alternative. Two laboratory experiments were conducted to measure the response of two submerged species, Egeria densa Planch. and Limnophila heterophylla (Roxb.) Benth., to dissolved silicic acid availability and exposure to hydrodynamic stress. The results were verified with a third species in a field study (Nuphar lutea (L.) Smith). Biogenic silica (BSi) concentration in both stems and leaves increases with increasing dissolved silica availability but also with the presence of hydrodynamic stress. We suggest that the inclusion of extra silica enables the plant to alternatively invest its energy in the production of lignin and cellulose. Although we found no significant effects of hydrodynamic stress on cellulose or lignin concentrations either in the laboratory or in the field, BSi was negatively correlated with cellulose concentration and positively correlated with lignin concentration in samples collected in the field study. This implies that the plant might perform with equal energy efficiency in both standing and running water environments. This could provide submerged species with a tool to respond to abiotic factors, to adapt to new ecological conditions and hence potentially colonise new environments.