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Submersed Aquatic Vegetation

This tool lists various Habitat Fact Sheets developed by the Region 5 Regional Response Team. To suggest additions to this tool, please contact Ann Whelan. Click here for Inland Response Tactics Manual.

I. Habitat Description

The submersed vegetation habitat is those portions of lakes, ponds, channel borders, or backwaters that appear more than 10% of vegetation fully underwater. Common vegetation types include wild celery (Vallisneria), coontail (Ceratophyflum), and the invasive curly pondweed (Potamogeton). While this habitat is dominated by submersed vegetation, it may have inclusions of nonrooted-floating aquatics, rooted-floating aquatics, or emergent vegetation. It generally is found in areas which are flooded year round and have water depths between 0.5 and 2 meters. Submersed vegetation occurring at depths greater than 2 meters may be classified as open water. 


II. Sensitivity to Oil Spills

Due to proximity to shorelines and establishment in shallow water, submersed aquatic vegetation habitat is highly sensitive to oil spills. Submersed vegetation, especially wild celery, are an important food source for waterfowl such as canvasback (Aythya valisneria), and provide habitat and food sources for a variety of invertebrates, fish, and other wildlife. Many fish and amphibious species deposit eggs on submerged vegetation.  Light refined oils with high amounts of water-soluble fractions can cause acute mortality to animals and plants in these shallow habitats. Heavier oils tend to coat vegetation and animals, though the vegetation may survive because the roots are not affected. It is more difficult for more viscous oils to penetrate dense vegetation beds. However, these oils can smother submersed grass beds. Above all, oil reduces plant and animal tolerance to other environmental stress factors.


III. Sensitivity to Response Methods

The following text describes potential adverse impacts to this habitat resulting from various oil spill response methods and provides recommendations to reduce impact when these methods are implemented.  This is not intended to preclude the use of any particular methods, but rather to aid responders in balancing the need to remove oil with the possible adverse effects of removal.  More detail about the response methods themselves can be found in the Inland Response Tactics Manual.

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