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Community-Level Waterbird Responses to Water Hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes)

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 January 2017

Amy M. Villamagna*
Sustainable Development and Conservation Biology Program, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742
Brian R. Murphy
Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061
Sarah M. Karpanty
Department of Fish and Wildlife Conservation, Virginia Tech, Blacksburg, VA 24061
Corresponding author's E-mail:


Water hyacinth is among the most widespread invasive plants worldwide; however, its effects on waterbirds are largely undocumented. We monitored site use by waterbirds at Lake Chapala, the largest lake in Mexico and recently designated Ramsar site, to evaluate the potential influence of water hyacinth cover on species composition and aggregate measures of the waterbird community, including waterbird density, species richness, and Simpson's index of diversity. We examined the response of waterbirds to changes in percent water hyacinth cover at 22 independent sites around the lake during six study seasons from May 2006 to February 2008. We found little evidence to suggest that percent water hyacinth cover affected aggregate community measures; however, multivariate analysis of relative species composition suggested that water hyacinth cover corresponded with seasonal species composition (Canonical Correspondence r = 0.66, P = 0.007) when seasonal site cover averaged 17.7 ± 4.67% (winter 2007). Several migratory species were not observed during this season, which could suggest that some small-bodied migratory species avoided Lake Chapala during the winter of high water hyacinth cover. We suspect that observed changes in the waterbird community are in response to species-specific tolerances for water hyacinth and indirect abiotic and biotic effects of its presence (e.g., invertebrate and fish composition).

Copyright © Weed Science Society of America 

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