Changing weather conditions and floating plants in temperate drainage ditches.
Dominance of free-floating plants such as duckweed is undesirable as it indicates eutrophication. The objectives of this study are to investigate whether the onset of duckweed dominance is related to weather conditions by analysing field observations, to evaluate the effect of different climate scenarios on the timing of duckweed dominance using a model and to evaluate to what extent nutrient levels should be lowered to counteract effects of global warming. To analyse the onset of duckweed dominance in relation to weather conditions, duckweed cover in Dutch ditches was correlated with weather conditions for the period 1980-2005. Furthermore, a model was developed that describes biomass development over time as a function of temperature, light and nutrient availability, crowding and mortality. This model was used to evaluate the effects of climate change scenarios and the effects of lowering nutrients. The onset of duckweed dominance in the field advanced by approximately 14 days with an increase of 1°C in the average maximum daily winter temperature. The modelled biomass development correlated well with the field observations. Scenarios showed that expected climate change will affect onset and duration of duckweed dominance in temperate ditches. Reducing nutrient levels may counteract the effect of warming. Synthesis and applications. Global warming may lead to an increase in the dominance of free-floating plants in drainage ditches in the Netherlands. The expected reductions in nutrient-loading to surface waters as a result of different measures taken so far are likely not sufficient to counteract these effects of warming. Therefore, additional measures should be taken to avoid a further deterioration of the ecological water quality in ditches.