Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Name

Master of Science (M.S.)

Degree Granting Department

Integrative Biology

Major Professor

Thomas L. Crisman, Ph. D.

Committee Member

Susan Bell, Ph. D.

Committee Member

Mark Rains, Ph. D.


benthic invertebrates, macrophytes, lake age


Investigations were made examining the relationships between gastropod species richness and abundance across 20 phosphate and 20 natural lakes in Central Florida. In additional to lake category, age of phosphate lakes was used to determine if phosphate lakes ever approximate natural lakes. Additional physical, chemical, and biological parameters, including chlorophyll a, Ca, secchi, phosphorous, conductance, fish predation, and recreational lake use were investigated in order to determine if they affected gastropods with lake age. Comparisons were also made between gastropod species richness and average abundance and two groups of dominant vegetation categories: Panicum, a structurally complex macrophyte, and Typha, a less structurally complex macrophyte.

After phosphate mining operations are completed, Florida state regulations require the establishment of ecologically viable habitat (created lakes) which reflects the properties of regional natural lakes including vegetation structure, littoral zone, bank slope, and lake depth. The littoral zone is part of the mandated structure of the lake, and is of considerable importance to the uptake, storage, transformation and release of nutrients. Within the littoral zone, gastropods are a critical link in the food web with implications for the long term structure and function of a lake. They are known for their close associations with macrophytes and are common environmental indicators since they have limited mobility, high diversity, are well studied, are representative of their habitat type and have a widespread geographic range. They are also an important food sources for many predators in aquatic environments, include migratory waterfowl and game fish.

Gastropod species richness and abundance data were collected via standard net sweep methodology. Abundance was presented in catch per unit effort, therefore all abundance data were averages. Initial comparisons between gastropod species richness and average abundance yielded no significant differences between natural and phosphate lakes. However, when age was applied as a covariate, there was a significant difference between lake age as a continuous variable in species richness comparisons. Additionally, categorical comparisons between lakes older or younger than 30 years indicated significantly higher species richness and average abundance of gastropods in lakes phosphate lakes older than 30 years.

Physical and chemical properties of the lakes did not appear to influence gastropod populations between lakes of different ages. Fish predation interactions did not indicate any significant influence either. However, the presence of boat ramps did indicate a positive relationship between average gastropod abundance and species richness and recreational lake use.

Littoral zone macrophyte comparisons between dominant vegetation Typha and Panicum indicated a significantly positive relationship between gastropod species richness and average abundance in older phosphate lakes dominated by the more structurally complex Panicum macrophytes. Confidence in the Typha and Panicum results was confounded by lack of access to younger, Typha dominated, phosphate lakes. An increase in sample size for younger Typha lakes, with additional site access, may further support these findings.