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PLoS One. 2013 Jun 18;8(6):e66365. Print 2013.

Spatio-Temporal Variability of Aquatic Vegetation in Taihu Lake over the Past 30 Years.

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  • 1Department of Biological Science and Technology, Nanjing University, Nanjing, P R China.


It is often difficult to track the spatio-temporal variability of vegetation distribution in lakes because of the technological limitations associated with mapping using traditional field surveys as well as the lack of a unified field survey protocol. Using a series of Landsat remote sensing images (i.e. MSS, TM and ETM+), we mapped the composition and distribution area of emergent, floating-leaf and submerged macrophytes in Taihu Lake, China, at approximate five-year intervals over the past 30 years in order to quantify the spatio-temporal dynamics of the aquatic vegetation. Our results indicated that the total area of aquatic vegetation increased from 187.5 km2 in 1981 to 485.0 km2 in 2005 and then suddenly decreased to 341.3 km2 in 2010. Similarly, submerged vegetation increased from 127.0 km2 in 1981 to 366.5 km2 in 2005, and then decreased to 163.3 km2. Floating-leaf vegetation increased continuously through the study period in both area occupied (12.9 km2 in 1981 to 146.2 km2 in 2010) and percentage of the total vegetation (6.88% in 1981 to 42.8% in 2010). In terms of spatial distribution, the aquatic vegetation in Taihu Lake has spread gradually from the East Bay to the surrounding areas. The proportion of vegetation in the East Bay relative to that in the entire lake has decreased continuously from 62.3% in 1981, to 31.1% in 2005 and then to 21.8% in 2010. Our findings have suggested that drastic changes have taken place over the past 30 years in the spatial pattern of aquatic vegetation as well as both its relative composition and the amount of area it occupies.

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