Have grass carp driven declines in macrophyte occurrence and diversity in the Vaal River, South Africa?
The Vaal River, South Africa, historically had a rich diversity of native submerged macrophytes with at least 13 species from 5 families recorded. Over the past 10 years there has been a noticeable reduction in the occurrence and diversity of submerged macrophytes in the river. It is possible that this is linked to the recent increase in the populations of invasive alien grass carp Ctenopharyngodon idella Cuvier & Valenciennes (Cyprinidae) in the river, where populations have been a concern since 2005. Grass carp invasions worldwide have been shown to have severe impacts on macrophyte biodiversity and ecosystem functioning. This fish is an aggressive feeder on submerged macrophytes, as well as being an ecosystem engineer that can change water and sediment chemistry.
Keywords: aquatic ecosystem, biodiversity, Ctenopharyngodon idella, fresh water, impact, invasion