Skip to main content
Dryad logo

Data from: Submerged macrophytes mitigate direct and indirect insecticide effects in freshwater communities


Brogan III, William R.; Relyea, Rick A.; Brogan, William R. (2015), Data from: Submerged macrophytes mitigate direct and indirect insecticide effects in freshwater communities, Dryad, Dataset,


Understanding how ecological interactions mitigate the impacts of perturbations such as pesticides in biological communities is an important basic and applied question for ecologists. In aquatic ecosystems, new evidence from microcosm experiments suggests that submerged macrophytes can buffer cladocerans from pulse exposures to the widely used insecticide malathion, and that mitigation increases with macrophyte density. However, whether these results scale up to more complex aquatic communities where ecological interactions such as competition can alter toxicity is unknown. Further, macrophyte abilities to mitigate different insecticide exposure scenarios (i.e. single versus repeated pulses) have never been tested. To address these gaps, we performed a factorial mesocosm experiment examining the influence of four macrophyte treatments (0, 10, 50, or 100 Elodea Canadensis shoots planted per mesocosm) crossed with three malathion exposure scenarios (no insecticide, single pulse, repeated pulses) on aquatic communities containing zooplankton, phytoplankton, periphyton, two snail species, and larval amphibians. In the absence of macrophytes, single malathion pulses caused short-term declines in cladoceran abundance followed by their rapid recovery, which precluded any indirect effects (i.e. trophic cascades). However, repeated malathion pulses caused cladoceran extinctions, resulting in persistent phytoplankton blooms and reduced abundance of one snail species. In contrast, with macrophytes present, even at low density, malathion had no effect on any taxa. We also discovered novel effects of macrophytes on the benthic food web. In the two highest macrophyte treatments, we observed trends of reduced periphyton biomass, decreased abundance of one snail species, and decreased amphibian time to and mass at metamorphosis. To our knowledge, this is the first evidence of negative submerged macrophyte effects on amphibians, a taxa of global conservation concern. Our findings suggest that facilitating macrophytes could be an important strategy for buffering freshwater communities from insecticides, though consideration of their impacts on animal species is necessary.

Usage Notes


Northwestern Pennsylvania