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Keywords:

  • Carbon dioxide;
  • isoetids;
  • organic matter;
  • softwater lake;
  • uprooting

Abstract

During spring storms massive uprooting of Littorella uniflora occurred in a shallow Dutch softwater lake. The aim of this study was to test whether changes in plant morphology and sediment characteristics could explain the observed phenomenon. Uprooting was expected to occur in plants having a high shoot biomass and low root to shoot ratio (R:S), growing on sediments with a high organic matter content. Normally, uprooting of the relative buoyant L. uniflora is prevented by an extensive root system, expressed as a high R:S. This was studied by sampling floating and still rooted L. uniflora plants, as well as sediment and sediment pore water, along a gradient of increasing sediment organic matter content. Increasing organic matter content was related to increasing L. uniflora shoot biomass and consequently decreasing R:S. Furthermore, the results indicated that uprooting indeed occurred in plants growing on very organic sediments and was related to a low R:S. The increased shoot biomass on more organic sediments could be related to increased sediment pore water total inorganic carbon (TIC; mainly CO2) availability. Additionally, increased phosphorus availability could also have played a role. The disappearance of L. uniflora might lead to higher nutrient availability in the sediments. It is suggested that this could eventually promote the expansion of faster-growing macrophytes.