• early detection;
  • Egeria densa;
  • hyperspectral remote sensing;
  • imaging spectroscopy;
  • Myriophyllum spicatum native;
  • nonnative;
  • submersed aquatic plants (SAP)


  • Nonnative species may change ecosystem functionality at the expense of native species. Here, we examine the similarity of functional traits of native and nonnative submersed aquatic plants (SAP) in an aquatic ecosystem.
  • We used field and airborne imaging spectroscopy and isotope ratios of SAP species in the Sacramento–San Joaquin Delta, California (USA) to assess species identification, chlorophyll (Chl) concentration, and differences in photosynthetic efficiency.
  • Spectral separability between species occurs primarily in the visible and near-infrared spectral regions, which is associated with morphological and physiological differences. Nonnatives had significantly higher Chl, carotene, and anthocyanin concentrations than natives and had significantly higher photochemical reflectance index (PRI) and δ13C values.
  • Results show nonnative SAPs are functionally dissimilar to native SAPs, having wider leaf blades and greater leaf area, dense and evenly distributed vertical canopies, and higher pigment concentrations. Results suggest that nonnatives also use a facultative C4-like photosynthetic pathway, allowing efficient photosynthesis in high-light and low-light environments. Differences in plant functionality indicate that nonnative SAPs have a competitive advantage over native SAPs as a result of growth form and greater light-use efficiency that promotes growth under different light conditions, traits affecting system-wide species distributions and community composition.