Nitella congesta - a charophyte as a tool for the rehabilitation of sand mine-void wetlands at Capel, Western Australia
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This research is the outcome of investigations of the ability of Nitella congesta, a charophyte, to hyperaccumulate metal contaminants, as well as contribute to the sustainable development of a chain of lakes derived from the sand mine voids at Capel 250km south of Perth, Western Australia. Studies were conducted to ascertain the taxonomy of Nitella congesta as well as its life cycle pattern in relation to the hydrological regime of the lakes of the wetlands. It was observed that a decrease in the availability of water in the lakes particularly on the onset of summer, initiated the production of fruiting bodies whiles prolonged availability of water ensured a prolonged vegetative growth.Aquatic plants play an important role in the structuring of freshwater communities. Freshwater macrophytes such as Nitella congesta have been reported to serve as food source as well as provide refuge and shelter for macroinvertebrates. Thus the presence of freshwater macrophytes in one way or the other has a direct impact on the species abundance and diversity of macroinvertebrates that use them as their habitat. A study of the impact of Nitella congesta as a suitable macrophyte on diversity and abundance of macroinvertebrates showed a positive outcome. It was observed that species richness and diversity were high in Nitella congesta dominated sites of the lakes. Experimental outcome showed that Nitella congesta is a hyperaccumulator of metals. Both the mucilage and the thallus displayed concentrations of few metals.The disappearance of submerged macrophytes such as charophytes in shallow lakes is a major problem caused by eutrophication. There has been an approved proposal to discharge treated waste water with a phosphorus concentration of about 4,000μg/L into the lakes of the Capel Wetlands Centre. This necessitated a study of the impact of eutrophication on the establishment of Nitella congesta as a functional macrophyte for the enhancement of the ecological structure of the wetlands.Results showed that though eutrophication will initially increase the primary productivity of the lakes of the wetlands, the eventual consequence will be the loss of Nitella congesta as a functional macrophyte in the wetlands.At the last stage of the study, a consistent decrease in pH readings of the lakes and lack of successful germination of Nitella congesta as a result of prolonged drought and exposure of the lake sediment was observed. This necessitated a thorough study of the impact of climate change on the establishment of Nitella congesta in the wetlands. In conclusion, it was observed that Nitella congesta could serve as a suitable tool for the rehabilitation of the wetlands.
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