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Life in Freshwater

Plant Communities

Plant Communities can be summarised as being either microphytes or macrophyte . Microphyte consists of the microscopic organisms like algae. This will include the various types of phytoplankton that drift in the water and also those types that attach to stones and the macrophytes. Attached microphytes are called the periphyton and may be joined by bacteria and protists like the amoeba. These minute algal cells may form large growths on the pond weeds.

Macrophyte is the name given to the large, easily visible plants. these mainly form communities around the fringe of the ponds and lakes. If the water is shallow then the macrophyte may extend right across the water, otherwise it will be limited to the fringe or littoral region. Here several communities can exist:

  1. Plants floating at the surface: e.g. duckweed and frogbit
  2. Plants floating beneath the surface and not rooted: e.g. hornwort, Canadian pondweed
  3. Plants rooted and with leaves floating at the surface: e.g. water lilies
  4. Plants rooted but the leaves are erect, out of the water: e.g. bur-reed, water plantain, reedmace

A Profile Down the Edge of a Pond
A Profile Down the Edge of a Pond

The above are flowering plants but some non-flowering plants may be abundant as well. For example the mosses, liverworts, stoneworts, horsetails and the water fern. These will fit in with the above four communities or can exist as dense stands in their own right. Fir example, in high alkaline conditions the stoneworts will completely dominate the aquatic zone. Mosses and liverworts will be close to the ground where flowering plants are sparse. The water fern can be a pest as it may be found in very high densities covering a pond.

The zones of vegetation (1-4 above) may fit the hydrosere outlined elsewhere. Number 1 will be close to the open water and as the pond becomes increasingly shallow zone number 4 forms a swamp. This fringe vegetation produces abundant shelter for microphytes to colonise and various animal groups, enabling them to avoid predators.



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