The ecological effects of water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), an introduced macrophyte, in freshwater systems depend on the growth and extent of floating mats. We studied macroinvertebrates associated with roots of water hyacinth in the Waccamaw River, a blackwater, tidal river in northeastern South Carolina, USA. In this system, water hyacinth is limited to a few protected bays and backwaters where the ecological effect is unknown. Our goal was to assess whether water hyacinth roots provided unique habitat. Plants representing ambient conditions, plants with defaunated roots, and a root analog (cotton mop strands = mop) were secured to floating frames in open water adjacent to water hyacinth mats. Samples were collected every 2 wk for 2 mo, and invertebrates were identified and quantified. Colonization of defaunated roots began within 2 wk, and invertebrate assemblages differed between roots and mops. The most common taxa on water hyacinth roots were Branchiopoda, Oligochaeta, Talitridae, and Chironomidae (Diptera), whereas Oligochaeta and Chironomidae were predominant on mops. Berosus sp.(Hydrophilidae) was the top-ranked taxon by proportional biomass on roots and mops. Total abundance and taxon richness of macroinvertebrates were greater on roots than on mops. Collector-gatherers were the most abundant functional feeding group (FFG) on mops, whereas distributions of abundance were relatively even among FFGs on ambient and defaunated roots. Predators dominated invertebrate biomass of all treatments, and shredder biomass was higher on roots than on mops. These data suggest that water hyacinth roots provide habitat for a diverse assemblage of macroinvertebrates, a function that should be weighed and assessed with other impacts before management actions are initiated.
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Vol. 33 • No. 1