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Aquatic Plants

Plants for Food.

Energy continuously flows through all trophic levelsLevel of organization in the grazing food chain.
Step in the movement of energy through an ecosystem.
in an ecosystema community of organisms, including humans, interacting with one another and the environment in which they live.. Green plants fix energy from the sun during photosynthesisIs the chemical process where plants and some bacteria can capture and organically fix the energy of the sun. This chemical reaction can be described by the following simple equation:
6CO2 + 6H2O + light energy >>> C6H12O6 + 6O2
The main product of photosynthesis is a carbohydrate, such as the sugar glucose, and oxygen which is released to the atmosphere. All of the sugar produced in the photosynthetic cells of plants and other organisms is derived from the initial chemical combining of carbon dioxide and water with sunlight. This chemical reaction is catalyzed by chlorophyll acting in concert with other pigment, lipid, sugars, protein, and nucleic acid molecules. Sugars created in photosynthesis can be later converted by the plant to starch for storage, or it can be combined with other sugar molecules to form specialized carbohydrates such as cellulose, or it can be combined with other nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur, to build complex molecules such as proteins and nucleic acids. Also see chemosynthesis. It is said that photosynthesis gives rise to three quarters of the world supply of oxygen that we breathe.
; these plants are consumed by herbivores; and they, in turn, by carnivoresAn organism that eats only the meat of other organisms..

Plants are, therefore, critical to life on this planet because they form the basis of all food webs, whether or not they grow in water. Most plants are autotrophic, creating their own food using water, Carbon DioxideCommon gas found in the atmosphere. Has the ability to selectively absorb radiation in the longwave band. This absorption causes the greenhouse effect. The concentration of this gas has been steadily increasing in the atmosphere over the last three centuries due to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and land-use change. Some scientists believe higher concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will result in an enhancement of the greenhouse effect and global warming. The chemical formula for carbon dioxide is CO2., and light through a process called photosynthesisIs the chemical process where plants and some bacteria can capture and organically fix the energy of the sun. This chemical reaction can be described by the following simple equation:
6CO2 + 6H2O + light energy >>> C6H12O6 + 6O2
The main product of photosynthesis is a carbohydrate, such as the sugar glucose, and oxygen which is released to the atmosphere. All of the sugar produced in the photosynthetic cells of plants and other organisms is derived from the initial chemical combining of carbon dioxide and water with sunlight. This chemical reaction is catalyzed by chlorophyll acting in concert with other pigment, lipid, sugars, protein, and nucleic acid molecules. Sugars created in photosynthesis can be later converted by the plant to starch for storage, or it can be combined with other sugar molecules to form specialized carbohydrates such as cellulose, or it can be combined with other nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur, to build complex molecules such as proteins and nucleic acids. Also see chemosynthesis. It is said that photosynthesis gives rise to three quarters of the world supply of oxygen that we breathe.
. Some of the earliest fossils found have been aged at 3.8 billion years. These fossilremains or traces of prehistoric animals or plants. The most common types consist of bones, carbon films, shells, molds, casts, and petrified wood. deposits show evidence of photosynthesisIs the chemical process where plants and some bacteria can capture and organically fix the energy of the sun. This chemical reaction can be described by the following simple equation:
6CO2 + 6H2O + light energy >>> C6H12O6 + 6O2
The main product of photosynthesis is a carbohydrate, such as the sugar glucose, and oxygen which is released to the atmosphere. All of the sugar produced in the photosynthetic cells of plants and other organisms is derived from the initial chemical combining of carbon dioxide and water with sunlight. This chemical reaction is catalyzed by chlorophyll acting in concert with other pigment, lipid, sugars, protein, and nucleic acid molecules. Sugars created in photosynthesis can be later converted by the plant to starch for storage, or it can be combined with other sugar molecules to form specialized carbohydrates such as cellulose, or it can be combined with other nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur, to build complex molecules such as proteins and nucleic acids. Also see chemosynthesis. It is said that photosynthesis gives rise to three quarters of the world supply of oxygen that we breathe.
, so plants, or the plant-like ancestors of plants, have lived on this planet longer that most other groups of organisms. At one time, anything that was green and that wasn’t an animal was considered to be a plant. Now, what were once considered “plants” are divided into several kingdoms: ProtistaGroup, at the kingdom level, in the classification of life. Organisms that are mainly unicellular and have a eukaryotic cell type. A few multicellular members exist., FungiA large group of spore-producing organisms which feed on organic matter and include moulds, yeast, mushrooms, and toadstools, and PlantaeThe kingdom including the vascular plants, plants with full systems of leaves, stems, and roots., and a few of their close relatives, often called bryophytes, of which mosses and liverworts are the most common.. Most aquatic plants occur in the kingdoms Plantae and Protista.

Photosynthesis.

Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert light, Carbon DioxideCommon gas found in the atmosphere. Has the ability to selectively absorb radiation in the longwave band. This absorption causes the greenhouse effect. The concentration of this gas has been steadily increasing in the atmosphere over the last three centuries due to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and land-use change. Some scientists believe higher concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will result in an enhancement of the greenhouse effect and global warming. The chemical formula for carbon dioxide is CO2. and water into food, or energy. It is extremely important for the majority of life on earth because plants convert inorganic (unuseable) carbon into an organic

  1. Relating to an organism.
  2. Derived from an organism.
(useable) form. Most of the carbon found on earth is in an inorganic form, such as Carbon DioxideCommon gas found in the atmosphere. Has the ability to selectively absorb radiation in the longwave band. This absorption causes the greenhouse effect. The concentration of this gas has been steadily increasing in the atmosphere over the last three centuries due to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and land-use change. Some scientists believe higher concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will result in an enhancement of the greenhouse effect and global warming. The chemical formula for carbon dioxide is CO2. (CO2), bicarbonate (HCO3-) and CarbonateCompound consisting of a single atom of carbon and three atoms of oxygen. Carbonate has the following chemical structure CO3 (CO3 -2). Plants alter the carbon found in these compoundA compound is the atoms of different elements joined together. and store it as organic
  1. Relating to an organism.
  2. Derived from an organism.
carbon compounds. Aquatic plants are especially important in this process because they account for 40% of the photosynthesisIs the chemical process where plants and some bacteria can capture and organically fix the energy of the sun. This chemical reaction can be described by the following simple equation:
6CO2 + 6H2O + light energy >>> C6H12O6 + 6O2
The main product of photosynthesis is a carbohydrate, such as the sugar glucose, and oxygen which is released to the atmosphere. All of the sugar produced in the photosynthetic cells of plants and other organisms is derived from the initial chemical combining of carbon dioxide and water with sunlight. This chemical reaction is catalyzed by chlorophyll acting in concert with other pigment, lipid, sugars, protein, and nucleic acid molecules. Sugars created in photosynthesis can be later converted by the plant to starch for storage, or it can be combined with other sugar molecules to form specialized carbohydrates such as cellulose, or it can be combined with other nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur, to build complex molecules such as proteins and nucleic acids. Also see chemosynthesis. It is said that photosynthesis gives rise to three quarters of the world supply of oxygen that we breathe.
on the planet, though they are less than 1% of the plant biomassThe total mass of living matter within a given unit of environmental area..

Photosynthesis can be divided into two stages. The first stage is light dependent; it needs the energy collected from light to proceed. The energy that comes from the light is used to produce ATP (Adenosine triphosphate) - the energy unit of the cell. The second stage is light independent; the energy that has been captured in ATP is used (along with other factors) to create sugarType of carbohydrate chemically based on carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen.. The conversion of Carbon DioxideCommon gas found in the atmosphere. Has the ability to selectively absorb radiation in the longwave band. This absorption causes the greenhouse effect. The concentration of this gas has been steadily increasing in the atmosphere over the last three centuries due to the burning of fossil fuels, deforestation, and land-use change. Some scientists believe higher concentrations of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases will result in an enhancement of the greenhouse effect and global warming. The chemical formula for carbon dioxide is CO2. into organic carbon compounds is called carbon fixationThe act of rendering atmospheric nitrogen suitable for use by an organism. The light reactions of photosynthesisIs the chemical process where plants and some bacteria can capture and organically fix the energy of the sun. This chemical reaction can be described by the following simple equation:
6CO2 + 6H2O + light energy >>> C6H12O6 + 6O2
The main product of photosynthesis is a carbohydrate, such as the sugar glucose, and oxygen which is released to the atmosphere. All of the sugar produced in the photosynthetic cells of plants and other organisms is derived from the initial chemical combining of carbon dioxide and water with sunlight. This chemical reaction is catalyzed by chlorophyll acting in concert with other pigment, lipid, sugars, protein, and nucleic acid molecules. Sugars created in photosynthesis can be later converted by the plant to starch for storage, or it can be combined with other sugar molecules to form specialized carbohydrates such as cellulose, or it can be combined with other nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur, to build complex molecules such as proteins and nucleic acids. Also see chemosynthesis. It is said that photosynthesis gives rise to three quarters of the world supply of oxygen that we breathe.
are associated with or occur in membranes. The rest of the reactions occur in the aqueous phase (i.e. not in membranes). In most anaerobic

  1. Living without molecular oxygen.
  2. Occurring only in the absence of molecular oxygen.
  3. Growing in the absence of molecular oxygen.
photosynthetic bacteriaSimple single celled prokaryotic organisms. Many different species of bacteria exist. Some species of bacteria can be pathogenic causing disease in larger more complex organisms. Many species of bacteria play a major role in the cycling of nutrients in ecosystems through aerobic and anaerobic decomposition. Finally, some species form symbiotic relationships with more complex organisms and help these life forms survive in the environment by fixing atmospheric nitrogen. and cyanobacteriaBacteria that have the ability to photosynthesize. the light reactions occur on membranes that are arranged in sheets of lamellaeA cellular structure found either in chloroplasts or between plant cell walls. next to the periplasmic membrane. The dark reactions generally occur in the centre of the cell. Eukaryotic cells have special organellesIs a specialized structure found in cells that carry out distinct cellular functions. called chloroplastOrganelle in a cell that contains chlorophyll and produces organic energy through photosynthesis. which contain alternating layers of lipoproteinA water-soluble protein that combines with and transports lipids membranes and aqueous phases.

Macrophytes.

Macrophytes are the conspicuous plants that dominate wetlands, shallow lakes, and streams. Macroscopic floraThe plants of a particular region, habitat, or geological period. include the aquatic angiospermsPlants of a large group (subdivision Angiospermae) that comprises those that have flowers and produce seeds enclosed within a carpel, including herbaceous plants, shrubs, grasses, and most trees. (flowering plants), pteridophytes (ferns), and bryophytes (mosses, hornworts, and liverworts). An aquatic plant can be defined as one that is normally found growing in association with standing water whose level is at or above the surface of the soil below. Standing water includes ponds, shallow lakes, marshes, ditches, reservoirsA natural or artificial pond or lake used for the storage and regulation of water., swamps, bogs, canals, and sewage lagoons. Aquatic plants, though less frequently, also occur in flowing water, in streams, rivers, and springs.

Macrophytes constitute a diverse assemblage of taxonomic groups and are often separated into four categories based on their habit of growth: floating unattached, floating attached, submersed, and emergent. Floating unattached plants are those in which most of the plant is at or near the surface of the water. Roots, if present, hang free in the water and are not anchored to the bottom. Floating attached plants have leaves which float on the surface, but their stems are beneath the surface, and their roots anchor the plant in the substrate. Submersed plants are found when the entire plant is below the surface of the water. Emergent plants are those whose roots grow underwater, but their stems and leaves are found above the water.

Periphyton.

Periphyton are benthic (attached) algae that grow attached to surfaces such as rocks or larger plants. Periphyton are primary producersOrganisms that occupy the first trophic level in the grazing food chain. These organisms are photosynthetic autotrophs. and sensitive indicators of environmental change in flowing waters. Because periphyton are attached to the substrate, this assemblage integrates physical and chemical disturbances to the stream reachAn expanse of a stream channel.. The periphyton assemblage serves as a good biological indicator for several reasons. For example, diatoms in particular, are useful indicators of biological condition because they are ubiquitous and found in all flowing systems. By using algal data in association with macroinvertebrate and fish data, the strength of biological assessments is enhanced, particularly in relation to biomassThe total mass of living matter within a given unit of environmental area. (chlorophyl-a or ash-free dry mass).

Ecosystems.

Aquatic macrophytes play a vital role in healthy ecosystemsa community of organisms, including humans, interacting with one another and the environment in which they live.. They serve as primary producersOrganisms that occupy the first trophic level in the grazing food chain. These organisms are photosynthetic autotrophs. of oxygen through photosynthesisIs the chemical process where plants and some bacteria can capture and organically fix the energy of the sun. This chemical reaction can be described by the following simple equation:
6CO2 + 6H2O + light energy >>> C6H12O6 + 6O2
The main product of photosynthesis is a carbohydrate, such as the sugar glucose, and oxygen which is released to the atmosphere. All of the sugar produced in the photosynthetic cells of plants and other organisms is derived from the initial chemical combining of carbon dioxide and water with sunlight. This chemical reaction is catalyzed by chlorophyll acting in concert with other pigment, lipid, sugars, protein, and nucleic acid molecules. Sugars created in photosynthesis can be later converted by the plant to starch for storage, or it can be combined with other sugar molecules to form specialized carbohydrates such as cellulose, or it can be combined with other nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur, to build complex molecules such as proteins and nucleic acids. Also see chemosynthesis. It is said that photosynthesis gives rise to three quarters of the world supply of oxygen that we breathe.
, provide a substrate for algae and shelter for many invertebrates, aid in nutrient cycling to and from the sediments, and help stabilizeTo maintain an non-fluctuating level of something; to become stable, or make something stable river and stream banks.

Biological filtration is an increasingly popular method of sewage treatment; some aquatic plants are being used to remove nutrientsAny food, chemical element or compound an organism requires to live, grow, or reproduce. and reduce concentrationsThe amount of a component in a given area or volume. of phosphorus and nitrogen from raw sewage or from the effluent sewage treatment facilities. Aquatic plants are also able to absorb other substances, including pollutantsSomething which contaminates (water, the air, etc.) with harmful or poisonous substances. such as phenolsAny compound with a hydroxyl group linked directly to a benzene ring, usually a toxic white sustance.

Aquatic plants supply a wide variety of wildlife with food and suitable nesting habitats. Some, even help to control pest populations; duckweeds are known to reduce mosquito numbers, which has the added benefit of decreasing the incidence of certain insect-borne diseases.

However, humans do not always consider plants to be so beneficial. Flooding of agricultural land is a concern for many that farm on or near a watershed and plants can play a significant role in creating these problems. As macrophyte biomassThe total mass of living matter within a given unit of environmental area. increases, the mean water velocityThe speed of movement of an object in one direction. of a river decreases. If river discharge is constant, such a reduction in velocity will raise the water level, thereby presenting the possibility of overflowing banks or raising water tablesin an aquifer, it is the upper surface of the zone of saturation under unconfined conditions; water in the rocks is at atmospheric pressure..

Fishing and navigation is another concern, as tall emergent plants can prevent access for shoreline fishing. Submerged speciesA taxonomic category subordinate to a genus (or subgenus) and superior to a subspecies or variety, composed of individuals possessing common characters distinguishing them from other categories of individuals of the same taxonomic level. In taxonomic nomenclature, species are designated by the genus name followed by a Latin or Latinized adjective or noun. can also spoil the gravel spawning beds of some fish (salmonids, in particular) and high densities of photosynthesizing macrophytes are capable of causing large fluctuations in oxygen; this can stress many fish species. Similarly, fish mortalityDeath rate in population; the probability of dying. may ensue when photosynthesisIs the chemical process where plants and some bacteria can capture and organically fix the energy of the sun. This chemical reaction can be described by the following simple equation:
6CO2 + 6H2O + light energy >>> C6H12O6 + 6O2
The main product of photosynthesis is a carbohydrate, such as the sugar glucose, and oxygen which is released to the atmosphere. All of the sugar produced in the photosynthetic cells of plants and other organisms is derived from the initial chemical combining of carbon dioxide and water with sunlight. This chemical reaction is catalyzed by chlorophyll acting in concert with other pigment, lipid, sugars, protein, and nucleic acid molecules. Sugars created in photosynthesis can be later converted by the plant to starch for storage, or it can be combined with other sugar molecules to form specialized carbohydrates such as cellulose, or it can be combined with other nutrients such as nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur, to build complex molecules such as proteins and nucleic acids. Also see chemosynthesis. It is said that photosynthesis gives rise to three quarters of the world supply of oxygen that we breathe.
does not exceed respiration (under prolonged hot and cloudy conditions), thus resulting in oxygen depletion.

The following extract from an August, 2006, report submitted to the Southwest Water Management District by the University of Florida, illustrates the significance of the above with respect to the coastal rivers of Citrus County.

Concluding Remarks

Increased nutrient delivery to aquatic systems is a global phenomenom and is perhaps the most pervasive problem facing water resource managers today. Increased nutrient loading, particularly of nitrogen and phosphorus, in many instances promotes rapid growth of algae and nuisance vegetation which can, in turn, lead to the decline of native submerged plants. In extreme cases of nutrient over-enrichment, the biological structure and ecological function of aquatic ecosystemsa community of organisms, including humans, interacting with one another and the environment in which they live. can be severely compromised with long-lasting socioeconomic consequences.

The changes documented in this report for Weeki Wachee, Chassahowitzka and Homosassa rivers between 1998-2000 and 2003-2005 are consistent with a eutrophication progression scheme as indicated above and warrant the close attention of water resource managers whose charge is to maintain the ecological health and integrity of these systems. Highlighted below are key findings that substantiate this claim.

Nitrate concentrations have increased significantly in all three river systems. Most notable has been the change in the Weeki Wachee River. The mean nitrateForm of nitrogen commonly found in the soil and used by plants for building amino acids, DNA and proteins. It is commonly produced by the chemical modification of nitrite by specialized bacteria. Chemical formula for nitrate is NO3-. concentration at the uppermost sampling transect in the Weeki Wachee River between 1998 and 2000 was 524 μg L-1. Between 2003 and 2005, the mean nitrate concentration at this same transectA straight line or narrow cross section along which observations or measurements are made. was 781 μg L-1. This more recent value represents an approximate 50% increase in nitrate concentration relative to the earlier time period. Similar comparisons indicate a 20% increase in the mean nitrate concentration at the uppermost sampling transect in the Chassahowitzka River and a 6% increase in the Homosassa River. The increases in nitrate concentration coupled with concomitant increases in calculated discharge ratesThe amount of water that passes a fixed point in a given amount of time, usually expressed as liters or cubic feet of water per second. in each of the three rivers has resulted in substantially greater nitrate loads. In fact, calculated nitrate loading rates in the headwater regions of the Weeki Wachee, Chassahowitzka and Homosassa rivers have increased by 76%, 43% and 56%, respectively, since the 1998 to 2000 sampling period.

SolubleSusceptible of being dissolved in a liquid, particularly water. reactive phosphorus concentrations have also increased significantly in each of the three river systems. This is particular reason for concern given that previous work in these rivers has indicated a strong potential for phosphorus limitation of algal growth (Frazer et al. 2001a, Frazer et al. 2002, Notestein et al. 2003). In the upper regions of the Weeki Wachee River, mean soluble reactive phosphorus concentrations increased by as much as 21% since the 1998 to 2000 sampling period. Increases of 19% and 15% were documented in the upper regions of the Chassahowitzka and Homosassa rivers, respectively. Loading rates calculated at the uppermost sampling transects in the Weeki Wachee, Chassahowitzka and Homosassa rivers increased by 33%, 44% and 46%, respectively, between the 1998 to 2000 and 2003 to 2005 sampling periods.

Coincident with the increased nitrogen and phosphorus concentrations and higher nutrient loading rates, were marked declines in submersed aquatic vegetation in each of the three rivers. The Weeki Wachee River exhibited an approximate 75% reduction in mean SAV biomassThe total mass of living matter within a given unit of environmental area.. A similar reduction was observed in the Homosassa River, i.e. 67%. An approximate 31% reduction in mean SAV biomass was observed in the Chassahowitzka River. Noteworthy is the apparent decline in the frequency of occurrence of native speciesSpecies that are originally found in a certain area. such as Vallisneria americana in the Homosassa River and Sagittaria kurziana in the Chassahowitzka River. The abundance of periphyton associated with rooted macrophytes increased significantly in both the Homosassa and Chassahowitzka. In fact, mean periphyton abundance on the remnant macrophyte population in the Homosassa was nearly twice as high (85% increase) during the 2003-2005 sampling period than in the 1998-2000 sampling period. In the Chassahowitzka River, the increase in mean periphyton abundance on macrophytes was 30%.

The changes noted above are, in combination, legitimate reasons for concern as noted previously in this report. Increased nutrient delivery, loss of native macrophytes and increased periphyton loads are symptomatic of eutrophication related phenomena. The potential broader consequences of nutrient over-enrichment on the ecological health and integrity of the Weeki Wachee, Chassahowitzka and Homosassa rivers, however, has yet to be fully investigated. We do not know, for example, how changes in the vegetative structure of the rivers may influence the resident faunalA derivative of fauna communities in these systems. Reductions in submersed aquatic vegetation, which provide both refuge and forage habitats, are likely to significantly alter predatorConsumer organism who feeds on prey. The process of consumption involves the killing of the prey. / preyOrganism that is consumed by a predator. relationships and other important species-level interactions. Such alterations may lead to undesirable shifts in community composition and possibly the loss of key species. QuantitativeRelating to or expressed as a specified or indefinite number or amount. data on the abundance and distribution of invertebrates and fishes are lacking for the Weeki Wachee, Chassahowitzka and Homosassa rivers and the speciesA taxonomic category subordinate to a genus (or subgenus) and superior to a subspecies or variety, composed of individuals possessing common characters distinguishing them from other categories of individuals of the same taxonomic level. In taxonomic nomenclature, species are designated by the genus name followed by a Latin or Latinized adjective or noun./habitat relationships specific to these three systems are, in general, poorly understood. Thus, it is not possible to predict the longer-term effects of nutrient enrichment and resultant decline of submersed aquatic vegetation on the organisms that presently occupy these systems.

Although the focus of this report is appropriately on the Weeki Wachee, Chassahowitzka and Homosassa rivers proper, the potential effects of increased nutrient delivery to their adjacent estuaries and nearshore coastal waters warrants attention as well. Frazer et al. (2006a) have recently documented an increasing trend in surface water chlorophyllGreen pigment found in plants and some bacteria used to capture the energy in light through photosynthesis. concentrations in the estuariesThe wide lower course of a river where the tide flows in, causing fresh and salt water to mix. and nearshore coastal waters along the broader Springs Coast region suggestive of an increase in nutrient loading from these and other nearby rivers, e.g., the Crystal and Withlacochee rivers. The potential negative consequences of increased chlorophyllGreen pigment found in plants and some bacteria used to capture the energy in light through photosynthesis. and decreased light availability on the seagrassesFlowering plants that grow and reproduce under water like eelgrass or a similar grass-like plant that grows near the sea. and their associated faunaThe animals of a particular region, habitat, or geological period. are well documented (see Duarte 1991, Valiela et al 1997) and are of obvious concern (see Frazer et al. 2006a). Clearly, there is a need for a fuller and more quantitativeRelating to or expressed as a specified or indefinite number or amount. understanding of nutrient loading as it relates to water qualityA term used to describe the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of water, usually in respect to its suitability for a particular purpose. not only in the rivers, but within the broader Springs Coast region.

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