Michigan Inland Lakes Partnership

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Aquatic Plant Mapping

A major component of the plant kingdom in lakes are the large, leafy, rooted plants. Compared to the microscopic algae the rooted plants are large. Sometimes they are collectively called the “macrophytes”. “Macro” meaning large and “phyte” meaning plant. It is these macrophytes that some people sometimes complain about and refer to as lake weeds.

Far from being weeds macrophytes or rooted aquatic plants are a natural and essential part of the lake, just as grasses, shrubs and trees are a natural part of the land. Their roots are a fabric for holding sediments in place, reducing erosion and maintaining bottom stability. They provide habitat for fish, including structure for food organisms, nursery areas, foraging and predator avoidance. Waterfowl, shore birds and aquatic mammals use plants to forage on and within, and as nesting materials and cover.

Though plants are important to the lake, overabundant plants can negatively affect fish populations, fishing and the recreational activities of property owners. Rooted plant populations increase in abundance as nutrient concentrations increase in the lake. As lakes become more eutrophic rooted plant populations increase. They are rarely a problem in oligotrophic lakes, only occasionally a problem in mesotrophic lakes, sometimes a problem in eutrophic lakes and often a problem in hypereutrophic lakes.

In certain eutrophic and hypereutrophic lakes with abundant rooted plants it may be advantageous to manage the lake and its aquatic plants for the maximum benefit of all users. To be able to do this effectively it is necessary to know the plant species present in the lake and their relative abundance and location. A map of the lake showing the plant population locations and densities greatly aids management projects.

The above information was taken directly from the 2008 Annual Summary Report of Michigan’s Cooperative Lakes Monitoring Program, published by the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality (Report No. MI/DEQ/WB-09/005).