Aquatic macrophytes and trophic interactions: a scientometric analyses and research perspectives

Abstract Aquatic macrophytes have a recognized role in ecosystem structuring and an important position in trophic cascades interactions, whose understanding is to improve water quality. In recent years, the number of studies on the role of aquatic macrophytes in trophic webs and interactions has increased, but South America has made little progress in research in the area. In this study, we investigated the main gaps and perspectives for future studies on macrophytes and trophic interactions, analyzing global publications, especially those conducted by South American researchers. We accessed publications using an international database (Thomson Reuters ISI-Web of Knowledge-(formerly Institute for Scientific Information)) from 1980 to 2015. We ranked each article by ecosystem and study approach, biological organization and interacting taxonomic groups (phytoplankton, periphyton, zooplankton, aquatic invertebrates, fish and birds), countries publishing in cooperation and affiliations. The results showed that published studies (n = 242) emphasizing aquatic plants in trophic interactions increased in 35 years. Comparing the contributions of the 32 countries investigated, those from South America as first affiliation, had few publications (n = 26) and in cooperation (n = 7). The largest volume of articles indexed by the researchers dealt with the dynamics and structure of aquatic assemblages, webs and trophic interactions. Ecosystems such reservoirs and wetlands have received little attention. Large numbers of studies have encompassed community-wide aquatic approaches, including in South American studies, the interactions between macrophytes, zooplankton and phytoplankton were the second most studied interactions of all indexed articles. Knowledge about trophic cascade and interactions has been successfully enhanced in several countries with the purpose of restructuring communities and restore water quality of many ecosystems. In summary, we conclude that studies in the area of trophic interactions mediated by macrophytes may be directed in a way to attenuate international asymmetries, encouraging the increase of scientific productivity in South America.