Aquatic plants are a natural part of most lake communities and provide many benefits to fish, wildlife, and people. In lakes, life depends--directly or indirectly--on water plants. They are the primary producers in the aquatic food chain, converting the basic chemical nutrients in the water and soil into plant matter, which becomes food for all other life.
Find out more about helping fish and wildlife on your lakeshore .
Aquatic plants serve many important functions:
Provide fish food
More food for fish is produced in areas of aquatic vegetation than in areas where there are no plants. Insect larvae, snails, and freshwater shrimp thrive in plant beds. Sunfish--Minnesota's most sought-after game fish--eat aquatic plants in addition to aquatic insects and crustaceans.
Offer fish shelter
Plants provide shelter for young fish. Because bass, sunfish, and yellow perch usually nest in areas where vegetation is growing, certain areas of lakes are protected and posted by the DNR as fish spawning areas during spring and early summer. Northern pike use aquatic plants, too, by spawning in marshy and flooded areas in early spring.
Improve water clarity and quality
Certain water plants, like bulrushes, can absorb and break down polluting chemicals. Nutrients used by aquatic plants for growth are not available to algae. This reduces algae abundance improving water clarity. Aquatic plants also maintain water clarity by preventing the re-suspension of bottom sediments. Algae, which thrive on dissolved nutrients, can become a nuisance when too many submerged water plants are destroyed.
Protect shorelines and lake bottoms
Aquatic plants, especially rushes and cattails, dampen the force of waves and help prevent shoreline erosion. Submerged aquatic plants also weaken wave action and help stabilize bottom sediment. An application (36 kb) for a permit to transplant or collect aquatic plants is available as are instructions (93 kb) to complete the application.
Provide food and shelter for waterfowl
Many submerged plants produce seeds and tubers (roots), which are eaten by waterfowl. Bulrushes, sago pondweed, wild celery, and wild rice are especially important duck foods. Submerged plants also provide habitat to many insect species and other invertebrates that are, in turn, important foods for brooding hens and migrating waterfowl.
The visual appeal of a lakeshore often includes aquatic plants, which are a natural, critical part of a lake community. Plants such as water lilies, arrowhead, and pickerelweed have flowers or leaves that many people enjoy.
Provide economic value
As a natural component of lakes, aquatic plants support the economic value of all lake activities. Minnesota has a huge tourism industry centered on lakes and the recreation they support. Residents and tourists spend more than $1.5 billion each year to hunt, fish, camp, and watch wildlife on and around the state's lakes. The wild rice harvesting industry alone is worth at least $2 million to Minnesota's economy.