Theses and Dissertations

Issuing Body

Mississippi State University


Dibble, Eric. D.

Committee Member

Madsen, John D.

Committee Member

Belant, Jerrold L.

Committee Member

Ervin, Gary N.

Date of Degree


Document Type

Dissertation - Open Access


Forest Resources

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


College of Forest Resources


Department of Wildlife, Fisheries and Aquaculture


Aquatic plants (macrophytes) are important components of freshwater ecosystems and serve numerous purposes, physical and biological, that help to structure aquatic communities. Although macrophytes represent an essential component of stable aquatic communities, invasive macrophytes may negatively alter ecosystem properties. Non-native, invasive species have been identified as a major cause of biodiversity loss and the increasing prevalence of invasive species has prompted studies to help understand their impacts and to conserve biodiversity. Studying mechanisms of invasion also gives insight into how communities are structured and assembled. This study examined mechanisms that contribute to macrophyte invasion. First, I reviewed literature concerning mechanisms of macrophyte invasion. Mechanisms identified with this review were then placed within the context of the invasion process and potential taxonomic biases were discussed. Second, a set of classic invasion hypotheses were tested, including biotic resistance, disturbance, and stress, using mixed-effects models on survey data collected from twenty-nine lakes across the United States. Finally, using the same survey data, I performed an observational test of Darwin’s Naturalization Hypothesis at a small (point) and large (lake) scale for two highly invasive macrophytes, Potamogeton crispus and Myriophyllum spicatum. Results of the first study indicated that many invasion mechanisms have been tested with fully aquatic macrophytes with varied levels of support. In addition, there is likely a taxonomic bias depending on geographic location of the invaded area. The second study indicated that biotic interaction, disturbance, and stress interact, often in non-linear ways to influence probability of an invasive species occurring at a location. However, models containing these variables explained a relatively low percentage of variation in probabilities. Finally, there was no support for Darwin’s naturalization hypothesis at either a point or lake scale. Future research should continue the search for mechanisms that allow introduced species to establish. It is likely that general principles do not exist, at least among comparisons across ecosystem types. However, ecologists should continue to search for general patterns within definable ecosystem units to increase understanding about factors contributing to invasibility.



darwin's naturalization hypothesis||invasive species||community assembly||aquatic plants