Groundwater seepage stimulates the growth of aquatic macrophytes

Mette Frandsen, Bertel Nilsson, Peter Engesgaard, Ole Pedersen

Publikation: Bidrag til tidsskriftArtikelForskningpeer review

21 Citationer (Scopus)


1. The impact of groundwater seepage on the growth of submerged macrophytes was investigated in experiments on the isoetid Littorella uniflora and the elodeid Myriophyllum alterniflorum both in the laboratory and in the field. Isoetids rely mostly on sediment-derived CO2 and nutrients via root uptake, whereas elodeids acquire their inorganic carbon and nutrients from the water column. We thus hypothesised that L. uniflora would respond positively to seeping ground water as it should improve both CO2 and nutrient supply. 

2. Laboratory experiments were conducted by percolating vegetated cores containing natural sediment or technical sand with artificial ground water of high CO2 concentrations and with either high or low levels of nutrients. Field experiments were conducted in the oligotrophic Lake Hampen, Denmark, with custom-built seepage-growth chambers that permitted a near-natural flow-through of seeping ground water. Chambers with a solid bottom, and thus no flow-through of seeping ground water, served as controls in both laboratory and field experiments. In the field, seepage chambers were installed at a site with relatively high seepage fluxes (ground water from forest catchment), at a site with much lower seepage fluxes but with higher nutrient concentrations (ground water from agricultural catchment) and at a reference site with no net discharge or recharge of ground water. 

3. Positive growth responses were observed in the field at transects with high groundwater discharge compared to the control chambers with no seepage. No growth response was observed at the reference transect with low or alternating direction of groundwater seepage. The growth rates of L. uniflora in the field were significantly higher in seepage treatments compared to control treatments, and final plant mass was up to 70% higher than that for plants where seepage was excluded. In areas with high groundwater discharge, a strong positive correlation was found between groundwater seepage fluxes, growth rates, and final plant mass for L. uniflora, while there was no such relationship at the reference transect. The growth of M. alterniflorum was also significantly affected by groundwater seepage, but to a lesser degree than L. uniflora. Laboratory experiments generally showed the same trend for both L. uniflora and M. alterniflorum, and the positive influence of seeping ground water was apparently related to increased inorganic carbon supply and, to a lesser degree, improved nutrient availability. 

4. Groundwater discharge results in enhanced growth of isoetids and to some extent elodeids inhabiting a groundwater-fed softwater lake. We propose that the shallow dense vegetation present where most of the discharge takes place acts as a biological filter that retains nutrients that otherwise would end up in the water column and could result in increased algal growth.

Sider (fra-til)907-921
Antal sider15
TidsskriftFreshwater Biology
Udgave nummer5
StatusUdgivet - maj 2012


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