Distribution of aquatic macrophytes along depth gradients in Lajeado Reservoir, Tocantins River, Brazil

Abstract Aim The present study investigated the diversity of aquatic macrophytes in the littoral zone of Lajeado Reservoir, Tocantins River. We characterized spatial variations in species richness, composition and abundance along depth gradients. Methods Macrophyte sampling occurred at the end of the dry season (September and October 2014) in four sites of the reservoir. We established transects perpendicular to the shoreline, each 25 m long, divided in 3 sections (plots of 5 x 5 m). Results In total, we recorded 18 taxa of aquatic macrophytes, belonging to nine families and four life forms. Najas microcarpa, Echinodorus tenellus. and Chara sp. were the more frequent and abundant taxa. Considering depth gradients, we recorded 18 taxa in the section closer to the shoreline, 13 in the middle section and 10 in the section more distant to the shoreline. Submerged and emergent species were more frequent and abundant, especially in the section close to the shoreline; epiphytes and free-floating species were rare. Plot species richness (total, emergent and submerged) decreased along the gradient, and a Non-Metric Multidimensional Scaling (NMDS) revealed that the plot close to the shoreline had different composition when compared to adjacent sections. Individual species showed particular behaviors, but most tended to decline in abundance and occurrence along the gradient. Conclusions The present study revealed that small-scale environmental gradients affect the distribution of aquatic plants in Lajeado Reservoir, with greater diversity in habitats close to the shoreline.