Aquatic vegetation and trophic condition of Cape Cod (Massachusetts, U.S.A.) kettle ponds

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The species composition and relative abundance of aquatic macrophytes was evaluated in five Cape Cod, Massachusetts, freshwater kettle ponds, representing a range of trophic conditions from oligotrophic to eutrophic. At each pond, aquatic vegetation and environmental variables (slope, water depth, sediment bulk density, sediment grain size, sediment organic content and porewater inorganic nutrients) were measured along five transects extending perpendicular to the shoreline from the upland border into the pond. Based on a variety of multivariate methods, including Detrended Correspondence Analysis (DCA), an indirect gradient analysis technique, and Canonical Correspondence Analysis (CCA), a direct gradient approach, it was determined that the eutrophic Herring Pond was dominated by floating aquatic vegetation (Brasenia schreberi, Nymphoides cordata, Nymphaea odorata), and the algal stonewort, Nitella. Partial CCA suggested that high porewater PO4-P concentrations and fine-grained sediments strongly influenced the vegetation of this eutrophic pond. In contrast, vegetation of the oligotrophic Duck Pond was sparse, contained no floating aquatics, and was dominated by emergent plants. Low porewater nutrients, low sediment organic content, high water clarity and low pH (4.8) best defined the environmental characteristics of this oligotrophic pond. Gull Pond, with inorganic nitrogen-enriched sediments, also exhibited a flora quite different from the oligotrophic Duck Pond. The species composition and relative abundance of aquatic macrophytes provide good indicators of the trophic status of freshwater ponds and should be incorporated into long-term monitoring programs aimed at detecting responses to anthropogenically-derived nutrient loading.

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