Community effects of invasive macrophyte control: role of invasive plant abundance and habitat complexity.
The control of invasive species has become a widespread management practice, yet information on the community effects of such efforts is very limited, there is no unified framework for monitoring their success and no guidelines exist to help minimize potential adverse impacts. This study was conducted to determine how long-term efforts to control a widespread invasive macrophyte, Eurasian watermilfoil, affect native macrophytes, fish and macroinvertebrates. In addition, we examined how members of the aquatic fauna respond to changes in invasive macrophyte abundance and habitat complexity to understand the mechanisms underlying any potential community response. Selective control of the invasive macrophyte had minor effects on habitat complexity due to timely recolonization by native macrophytes and it did not affect littoral fish richness and abundance. Macroinvertebrate communities were highly variable and some of that variation could be attributed to characteristics of the macrophyte community. Fish and macroinvertebrates were more affected by habitat complexity than by other attributes of the macrophyte assemblage. Synthesis and applications. Management plans to control invasive species need to prioritize selective removal and timely restoration of the native assemblage. In this study, the invasive macrophyte was used by aquatic fauna, which emphasizes the need for immediate restoration of the native macrophyte community to mitigate for the lost habitat after invasive plant control efforts. As both fish and macroinvertebrates were more affected by complexity than other attributes of the macrophyte assemblage, re-establishment of habitat complexity appears to be a promising restoration strategy. On a more general note, we highlight the importance of assessing community response to the habitat provided by the invader and invader's function in the community when evaluating strategies to control invasive species.