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The effect of plant density on epiphytic macroinvertebrates associated with a submerged macrophyte, Lagarosiphon ilicifolius Obermeyer, in Lake Kariba, Zimbabwe

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The effect of variations in the density of a submerged macrophyte,Lagarosiphon ilicifolius, on epiphytic macroinvertebrate community structure in the shallow waters of a sheltered bay of Lake Kariba were investigated. The body size class distributions of a mayfly, Cloeon (Ephemeroptera: Baetidae), and the damselfly family, Coenagrionidae, were also assessed with respect to variation in vegetation density. Macroinvertebrates were sampled from low-, moderate- and high-density beds of L. ilicifolius. There were no significant differences in individual taxon and total macroinvertebrate abundances, macroinvertebrate richness and diversity with respect to vegetation density. In all three density categories the functional feeding group (FFG) composition was dominated by collector-gatherers and collector-filterers. The abundance of the two FFGs did not change significantly within each, as well as among, the three vegetation-density categories (ANOVA, p > 0.05). The largest size class of Cloeon occurred only in high-density beds, whereas the largest coenagrionid individuals were obtained from low- and moderate-density beds and were absent from high-density beds. The results suggest that variation in the density of Lagarosiphon does not affect epiphytic macroinvertebrate community structure, but does affect body-size distributions of macroinvertebrate taxa, probably by affecting predator–prey interactions. Keywords: abundance, aquatic vegetation, diversity, habitat complexity, richnessAfrican Journal of Aquatic Science 2011, 36(3): 289–297

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