Effects of Cladophora glomerata on Terrestrial Shoreline Plant Species and the Common Shoreline Species Potentilla anserina
Mancini, Amanda N.
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Cladophora glomerata, a filamentous green alga native to the Laurentian Great Lakes, has become a nuisance to the shorelines of the lakes. Productivity of this alga has increased in the past twenty years with the introduction of zebra mussels (Dreissena polymorpha), and incidence of beach foulings in the lakes has become a problem. To understand the effects that this alga has on terrestrial plant communities we conducted a three part experiment consisting of a large scale monitoring of the cardinal distribution and relative abundance of C. glomerata on Beaver Island, a medium scale assessment of the effect of this alga on terrestrial plant community composition, and a fine scale experiment to determine the mechanistic effect, physical presence and/or nutrient release, of C. glomerata on a common shoreline plant species, Potentilla anserina. We found that C. glomerata presence is focused in the northern and southern bays of the island, with the greatest abundance of algal mats in the south. At a community level we saw no significant effect of C. glomerata presence on terrestrial plant communities, but this may be caused by limited habitat and temporal data. Finally, we concluded that the presence of submerged C. glomerata had a detrimental effect on the leaf growth of individuals. Our data suggests that this effect may be caused to a greater extent by the nutrient release of the algae as it decays, over its physical presence. Taken together, these results suggest that mats of C. glomerata may alter terrestrial plant community composition when C. glomerata is submerged, although the mechanism through which this occurs is unclear. Further research into the mechanistic effects of C. glomerata on terrestrial plants and continued acquisition of medium and large scale data collection will help to develop a clearer perception of the overall effects of this alga in the Laurentian Great Lakes.
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