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Acta Limnologica Brasiliensia

versão On-line ISSN 2179-975X

Acta Limnol. Bras. (Online) vol.22 no.2 Rio Claro abr./jun. 2010

http://dx.doi.org/10.4322/actalb.02202004 

BIOLOGICAL LIMNOLOGY

 

Richness and distribution of aquatic macrophytes in Brazilian semi-arid aquatic ecosystems

 

Riqueza e distribuição de macrófitas aquáticas em ecossistemas aquáticos do semi-árido brasileiro

 

 

Gustavo Gonzaga Henry-Silva; Rodrigo Sávio Teixeira de Moura; Luciana Lúcia de Oliveira Dantas

Laboratório de Limnologia e Qualidade de Água do Semi-Árido - LIMNOAQUA, Departamento de Ciências Animais, Universidade Federal Rural do Semi-Árido - UFERSA, CEP 59625-900, Mossoró, RN, Brazil e-mail: gustavo@ufersa.edu.br, rosatemo@bol.com.br, lucianaoli_dantas@yahoo.com.br

 

 


ABSTRACT

AIM: The aim of this study was to evaluate the richness and distribution of the aquatic macrophytes in the basin of the Apodi/Mossoró River, in the semi-arid region (caatinga) of Rio Grande do Norte, Brazil;
METHODS: A survey of the floristic composition of the aquatic macrophytes was made at 20 sampling stations in the basin at four seasons (August/2007, November/2007, February/2008, May/2008). Specimens of each species were collected and deposited in the Dárdano de Andrade Lima Herbarium of the Universidade Federal Rural do Semi-Árido;
RESULTS:
We found 40 species of aquatic macrophytes, in 33 genera and 22 families. The families with the most species were Poaceae and Cyperaceae, and the most species-rich genera were Cyperus and Eleocharis. The most common plant form was amphibian (42.5%), followed by emergent (27.5%), free-floating (12.5%), rooted-submersed (10.0%), and floating-leaved (7.5%). The lowest richness was observed at the estuarine region (3 species), and the highest richness in the upper basin (17 species). The rooted-submersed Hydrothrix gardneri Hooker f. and Ceratophyllum demersum L. were observed in great abundance and frequency in the Santa Cruz Reservoir of Apodi, especially in areas close to cage farms of Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) (Linnaeus, 1758). The most common free-floating species were Eichhornia crassipes (Mart.) Solms., Pistia stratiotes L., and Salvinia auriculata Aubl., predominantly in stretches that run through urban centers;
CONCLUSION:
The species richness of aquatic macrophytes in aquatic environments of the caatinga is similar to that observed in other basins of Brazil. Because of the many dams and reservoirs in the semi-arid Northeast, inventory and monitoring of aquatic macrophytes have become essential, especially in basins that will receive water from the diversion of the São Francisco River.

Keywords: aquatic plants, floristic inventory, basin, water diversion, caatinga.


RESUMO

OBJETIVO: Nós objetivamos avaliar a riqueza e a distribuição das macrófitas aquáticas nos ambientes aquáticos da bacia hidrográfica do Rio Apodi/Mossoró, no semi-árido do Rio Grande do Norte;
MÉTODOS:
A investigação da composição florística das macrófitas aquáticas presentes em 20 estações de amostragem da bacia hidrográfica, em quatro épocas do ano (Agosto/2007, Novembro/2007, Fevereiro/2008, Maio/2008). As espécies foram coletadas e depositadas no herbário Dárdano de Andrade Lima da Universidade Federal Rural do Semi-Árido;
RESULTADOS:
Foram identificadas 40 espécies de macrófitas aquáticas distribuídas em 33 gêneros e 22 famílias. As famílias com o maior número de espécies foram Poaceae e Cyperaceae e os gêneros mais representativos foram Cyperus e Eleocharis. A forma biológica mais freqüente foi a anfíbia (42,5%), seguida pelas emergentes (27,5%); folhas flutuantes (12,5%); submersas enraizadas (10,0%) e com folhas flutuantes (7,5%). A menor riqueza foi observada na região estuarina (três espécies), e a maior riqueza na parte alta da bacia hidrográfica (dezessete espécies). As submersas enraizadas Hydrothrix gardneri Hooker f. e Ceratophyllum demersum L. foram observadas em grande abundância e frequência no reservatório de Santa Cruz do Apodi, especialmente em áreas próximas as atividades de criação em tanques rede de tilápia do Nilo (Oreochromis niloticus) (Linnaeus, 1758). As flutuantes livres de maior ocorrência foram Eichhornia crassipes (Mart.) Solms., Pistia stratiotes L., e Salvinia auriculata Aubl., ocorrendo predominantemente em trechos que atravessam centros urbanos;
CONCLUSÕES:
 Nós concluímos que a riqueza de espécies de macrófitas aquáticas em ambientes aquáticos associados ao bioma caatinga é semelhante à riqueza observada em outras bacias hidrográficas do Brasil. Devido a grande quantidade de açudes e reservatórios existentes no semi-árido nordestino, o levantamento e o monitoramento das macrófitas aquáticas tornam-se essenciais, especialmente em bacias hidrográficas que receberão água da transposição do rio São Francisco.

Palavras-chave: plantas aquáticas, levantamento florístico, bacia hidrográfica, transposição de água, caatinga.


 

 

1. Introduction

The principal characteristics of the Brazilian semi-arid region are the low rainfall, generally concentrated in certain periods of the year; and the narrow temperature range (Maltchik and Florín, 2002). Studies on aquatic ecosystems of the Brazilian semi-arid region have evidenced the high biodiversity of these environments, including aquatic macrophytes, and have demonstrated that patterns of diversity are related to the hydrological extremes of flood and drought (Medeiros and Maltchik, 1999; Silva-Filho and Maltchik, 2000; Medeiros and Maltchik, 2001; Pedro et al., 2006).

Aquatic macrophytes play an important role in the structure and function of the aquatic environment (Engelhardt and Ritchie, 2001; Chambers et al., 2008; Makkay et al., 2008). Many studies have demonstrated the influence of these plants on the communities of benthic macro-invertebrates (Van den Berg et al., 1997; Takeda et al., 2003), fishes (Agostinho et al., 2003; Pelicice et al., 2005; Sánchez-Botero et al., 2008), periphyton (Pompêo and Moschini-Carlos, 2003), and zooplankton (Lansac-Toha et al., 2003). Floristic inventories have provided essential information for the conservation of biodiversity (Camargo et al., 2003; França et al., 2003; Matias et al., 2003; Paz and Bove, 2007; Rocha et al., 2007; Mora-Olivo and Villaseñor, 2007; Martins et al., 2008; Pivari et al., 2008a).

In recent years, studies of aquatic macrophyte communities have intensified, not only because of the ecological importance of these plants, but also because of the possibility of using them as biological indicators, as well as the proliferation of some species in basins impacted by organic pollution, reservoir construction, and water diversion (Pieterse and Murphy, 1990; Mackay et al., 2003; Thomaz et al., 2003; Camargo et al., 2003; Martins et al., 2008). The two largest drainage basins of the State of Rio Grande do Norte (Piranhas/Açu and Apodi/Mossoró) will receive water from the São Francisco River through the Eixo Norte (North Axis) waterway (ANA, 2007). These basin-integration projects may lead to physical and chemical changes of the water, and will also mix the aquatic biological communities through the introduction of species from one basin to another.

Considering that floristic inventories are important to provide useful information for actions to preserve biodiversity and in the management of weeds, and that studies on aquatic macrophytes in the semi-arid region of Rio Grande do Norte are few, the present work aimed to evaluate the richness and distribution of the aquatic macrophytes in the basin of the Apodi/Mossoró River, in order to compare and understand possible changes in the assemblages of aquatic macrophytes after artificial diversion of the Sao Francisco River.

 

2. Material and Methods

2.1. Study area

The basin of the Apodi/Mossoró River is located in the Northeast Middle-Eastern river basin of the State of Rio Grande do Norte (6° 22' 08"; 4° 57' 15" S and 38° 27' 22"; 37° 8' 11" W). The aquatic ecosystems of this region lie in the semi-arid Caatinga, and the rivers are intermittent except in their lower, tidal reaches, and in stretches where reservoirs have been constructed. In most of the basin, the annual mean rainfall is about 700 mm (SEMARH, 2009). The basin covers an area of 14,276 km², and is the largest drainage basin in the state of Rio Grande do Norte, comprising 26.8% of its area. The basin contains 618 recorded reservoirs (27.4% of the total in the state), all of which may be susceptible to colonization by exotic species. The headwaters of the Apodi/Mossoró River are in the mountains near the city of Luís Gomes in western Rio Grande do Norte, at 831 m altitude. The basin is 210 km long, and its largest reservoir, Santa Cruz, has an area of 2,187.5 km2 and a maximum water storage capacity of 600,000,000 m³. Only downstream from the Santa Cruz Reservoir is the Apodi/Mossoró River entirely perennial (SEMARH, 2009).

2.2. Sampling

In order to evaluate the richness and distribution of the aquatic macrophytes, samples of plant material were obtained at three-month intervals (August/2007, November/2007, February/2008, May/2008) at 20 sampling stations in the Apodi/Mossoró River basin (Figure 1). In the sampling stations, we made random walks up to 2 m from the shoreline, during 30 minutes; at some stations we used a boat. The specimens collected were photographed and placed in exsiccatae for subsequent cataloging in the Dárdano de Andrade Lima Herbarium of the Universidade Federal Rural do Semi-Árido. Species were identified through morphological comparison and consultation of specialized literature (Hoehne, 1979; Joly, 1987; Cook, 1990; Velásquez, 1994; Irgang and Gastal, 1996; Lorenzi, 2000; Pott, VJ. and Pott, A., 2000) and with experts. The scientific names used here follow the APGII classification system (2003), and the spelling of names was confirmed by the Missouri Botanical Garden (2010).

 

 

To categorize the aquatic macrophytes, we used the definitions of Cook (1996) and Irgang and Gastal (1996). The species were classified as amphibian (Am), emergent (Em), free-floating (FF), rooted-submersed (RS), floating-leaved (FL), and free-submersed (FS). The frequency of occurrence was calculated from the occurrence of each species at the sampling stations at the four periods of the year. Taxa were classified as: Constant = F > 50%, Common = 10% < F < 50%, or Rare = F < 10% (Lobo and Leighton, 1986).

 

3. Results and Discussion

In the Apodi/Mossoró River basin were identified 40 aquatic macrophyte species, members of 33 genera and 22 families (Table 1). The families with the largest numbers of species were Poaceae and Cyperaceae, comprising 30% of the total (Figure 2). The most species-rich genera were Cyperus and Eleocharis, with four and three species, respectively (Figure 3). Both families contain many taxa of aquatic macrophytes (França et al., 2003; Matias et al., 2003; Rocha et al., 2007; Pivari et al., 2008b). Some species of these families can colonize a wide variety of aquatic environments and inhabit ecotone areas (Cook, 1996; Leite et al., 2009). Currently, it is estimated that there are about 10,035 species of Poaceae and 5,000 species of Cypereaceae (Goetghebeur, 1998; Govaerts et al., 2007). Pott, VJ. and Pott, A. (2000), in a study of the distribution of aquatic macrophytes of the Pantanal, identified a total of 273 species, 26 Poaceae and 22 Cyperaceae, together comprising 17.6% of all species found. The importance of these families in aquatic environments is due to their rhizomes, tubers, and stolons, which facilitate vegetative propagation (Pott et al., 1989; Bove et al., 2003; França et al., 2003; Matias et al., 2003).

 

 

 

 

The most common biological form of macrophyte was the amphibian (42.5%), with 17 species, followed by the emergent (27.5%), free-floating (12.5%), rooted-submersed (10.0%), and floating-leaved (7.5%) (Figure 4). No free-submersed species were found. The Common species represented 55.0% of the total of aquatic macrophytes, and the Rare and Constant species represented 37.5% and 7.5%, respectively. Among the Common species, the amphibian was the most frequent (45.5%), followed by the emergent (27,3%), free-floating (18,2%), rooted-submersed (4.5%), and floating-leaved (4.5%). Among the Rare species, the amphibian was the most common (40.0%), followed by the rooted-submersed and emergent (both with 20.0%), floating-leaved (13.3%), and free-floating (6.7%). Only three biological forms were identified for the Constant species: amphibian (66.7%), and emergent (33.3%). (Table 2).

 

 

 

 

The 47.5% of the species identified in the Apodi/Mossoró River basin can be considered opportunistic, i.e., they have greater ability to use light, water, nutrients, and carbon dioxide, high seed production, and mechanisms to promote the spread and longevity of seeds, especially through dormancy (Lorenzi, 2000). According to Lorenzi (2000), the following species can be considered opportunistic: Alternanthera philoxeroides, Cenchrus echinatus, Ceratophyllum demersum, Cyperus esculentus, C. surinamensis, Echinochloa polystachya, Echinodorus grandiflorus, Eclipta alba, Eichhornia crassipes, Eleocharis acutangula, Hydrolea spinosa, Ipomoea fistulosa, Lemna valdiviana, Limnocharis flava, Neptunia plena, Pistia stratiotes, Salvinia auriculata, Stylosanthes guianensis, and Wolffia brasiliensis. Bove et al. (2003), in a study of temporarily flooded environments of the coastal plain of northern Rio de Janeiro, observed that opportunist species represented 23% of the total taxa, i.e., about half of the proportion found in the present study. This may indicate that the Apodi/Mossoró River is less preserved, providing favorable conditions for the colonization of potential weed species.

The average richness by sampling station was 9 species, ranging from 3 to 17 species (Figure 5). The stations with the highest richness were 4 and 3, with 17 and 15 species respectively; amphibians (41.7%) and emergents (33.3%) predominated at both stations. Station 20 presented the lowest species richness (Ruppia maritima, Salicornia gaudiachaudiana, and Sesuvium portulacastrum), probably because it is close to the estuary, where high salinities provide unfavorable habitat for most aquatic macrophytes. Stemodia maritima was the most common species along the river basin, hile the emergent Ludwigia helminthorrhiza and Heteranthera seubertiana occurred in stretches less impacted by domestic-sewage discharge, as well as the submersed genus Ceratophyllum and the species Hydrocleys parviflora. The most common free-floating species were Eichhornia crassipes, Pistia stratiotes, and Salvinia auriculata Aubl, which occurred predominantly in stretches that cross the urban center of the basin.

 

 

Most aquatic macrophyte species found in the present survey have wide geographical distributions, and many of them are native to tropical America (Lorenzi, 2000). The rooted submersed Hydrothrix gardneri and Ceratophyllum demersum were observed in great abundance and frequency in the Santa Cruz Reservoir, especially near fish farms where Nile tilapia (Oreochromis niloticus) (Linnaeus, 1758) are raised in cages. The floating-leaved type was less common overall; the species Ludwigia helminthorrhiza, found at eight stations, was most prominent. Nymphaea alba and Hydrocleys parviflora were noted at only one station, just below the Pau dos Ferros Reservoir, in the highest part of the basin.

Compared to other basin-wide inventories of aquatic macrophytes, the present study found species richness similar to that in the Itanhaém River basin (Pereira, 2002) and the Monjolinho River basin (Viana, 2005). However, species richness was relatively low in comparison to other Brazilian wetlands, such as the Banhado do Taim, State of Rio Grande do Sul (Irgang et al., 1984) and the Pantanal (Pott, VJ. and Pott, A., 2000) (Table 3). We found no studies focusing exclusively on hydrophyte communities of the State of Rio Grande do Norte, and in the present study, many temporary environments and reservoirs of the Apodi/Mossoró River basin were not sampled. Thus, the real number of aquatic macrophyte species of this semi-arid basin may be underestimated.

 

 

This information indicates that the richness of aquatic macrophytes in the caatinga is similar to that observed in other Brazilian basins. Because of the many dams and reservoirs in the semi-arid Northeast region of Brazil, the inventory and monitoring of aquatic macrophytes supports in evaluating the evolution of these plants, and allows to determine whether some species may become weeds, causing problems for the various uses of these environments. The diversion of water from the São Francisco River to the Apodi/Mossoró River basin may also affect the richness and distribution of the aquatic macrophyte community. Thus, it is essential to monitor the aquatic communities in the lentic and lotic environments of this basin.

 

Acknowledgements

We are grateful to professors José Iranildo Miranda de Melo, Regina Célia de Oliveira, and Vali Pott for their help in identifying the aquatic macrophytes species and Anibal de Sousa Mascarenhas Filho and Janet W. Reid of the Biological Consulting and Editing Services -USA by revision manuscript into English. We also thank CNPq and Petrobras for financial support.

 

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Received: 03 March 2010
Accepted: 12 August 2010