Invasion of floating fern alters freshwater macroinvertebrate community structure with implications for bottom-up processes.
The non-native aquatic fern giant salvinia, Salvinia molesta Mitchell (Salviniaceae), poses a risk to freshwater ecosystems through limiting light penetration, decreasing submerged aquatic vegetation (SAV) abundance, altering water quality, and potentially leading to changes in macroinvertebrate community structure. Here, we conducted repeated quarterly field surveys and measured light, nutrients, water quality, and aquatic macroinvertebrate community composition and energetic value to detect effects from giant salvinia invasion. Giant salvinia reduced dissolved oxygen, pH and light availability in the aquatic environment, and increased the concentration of orthophosphate and ammonium. Following initial colonization, macroinvertebrate communities in giant salvinia resembled SAV communities dominated by aquatic insects, however, richness and relative abundance in giant salvinia decreased over time, resulting in a community populated by few taxa, primarily crustaceans. Total macroinvertebrate energetic value in giant salvinia was significantly lower than SAV communities. Giant salvinia invasion changed habitat composition, triggered internal nutrient loading, and reduced macroinvertebrate abundance, diversity, and ecosystem productivity. Our findings demonstrate larger ecological impacts from giant salvinia than previously reported, including potential disruption to the transfer of energy between trophic levels.