EFFECTS OF THE INVASIVE PHRAGMITES AUSTRALIS ON THE PREDATION OF MOSQUITOES THROUGH CHANGES IN HABITAT COMPLEXITY
Weeks, Virginia Lynn
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Ephemeral stormwater ponds in the eastern United States are often invaded by non-native Phragmites australis which has been associated with numerous negative impacts on resident systems, including changes in hydrology, displacement of native macrophytes, and degradation of wildlife habitat. Few studies have documented the impacts of invasive P.australis on macroinvertebrate communities. Vegetated edges of stormwater retention facilities are often important developmental habitat for medically significant mosquitoes and the invertebrate predators that regulate their abundances. The displacement of resident macrophytes by P.australis could alter the physical structure of pond vegetation and disrupt the interactions between mosquitoes and their visual predators. The overall goal of my thesis was to evaluate differences in habitat complexity between native macrophytes, T.latifolia and J.effuses, and P.australis, and explore how those differences may impact predation of mosquitoes. I addressed this goal by conducting a controlled laboratory predation experiment and field surveys of four stormwater ponds.