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Survey of Aquatic Plant Species in Mississippi Waterbodies
Proceedings of the 2019 Mississippi Water Resources Conference
Year: 2019 Authors: Shoemaker C., Turnage G.
Mississippi has significant water resources that, many times, are impaired by invasive aquatic and wetland plant species. These plants can impact water quality (DO, pH, turbidity, etc.) such that native flora and fauna are negatively affected. Infested waterbodies can then act as source populations to introduce non-native vegetation to other waterbodies in the region thereby worsening the problem. The likelihood of being a source population increases if a waterbody has a high frequency of boat traffic. Many times small waterbodies that have significant amounts of boat traffic are overlooked due to the size of the waterbody. Approximately 192,050 acres of MS are covered by small waterbodies (<100 acres) which is greater than the five largest reservoirs in the state combined (117,840 acres; Ross Barnett, Sardis, Grenada, Enid, and Arkabutla reservoirs). The state has a greater number (>160,000) and density (1 per 0.51 mi2) of small waterbodies than any other state in the MidSouth (MS, AL, AR, TN, LA, and GA) region. Many waterbodies in the state that receive the highest amount of traffic are those owned and managed by the state of MS (MDWFP), federal agencies (USFWS, USFS, or USACE), or private entities. The purpose of this work was to survey small and medium sized waterbodies (100 - 7,500 acres) for the presence of invasive or problematic aquatic vegetation as no statewide survey of these waterbodies in MS has been conducted within a single growing season. In total, 42 waterbodies were surveyed between June-July 2017 and were spread throughout most major geophysical regions of Mississippi. Only four waterbodies in this survey had plant assemblages entirely composed of only native aquatic plant species while 38 (90% of surveyed waterbodies) had at least one non-native aquatic plant species. Of the 105 plant species observed, 15 were non-native (14% of surveyed plants). Alligatorweed (Alternanthera philoxeroides) and torpedograss (Pancium repens) were the most widespread non-native species in the state. Brittle naiad, wild taro (Colocasia esculenta), water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes), and Cuban bulrush (Oxycaryum cubense) are of concern as they have the ability to rapidly colonize any waterbody in which they are introduced. The results of this survey are useful in implementing early detection, rapid response (EDRR) management options on populations of non-native aquatic plant species in Mississippi, specifically small isolated populations, before they spread to other sites. This survey highlights the need for repeated monitoring throughout Mississippi in order to know which waterbodies are impacted by aquatic invasive plants and the severity of each infestation.