Desiccation tolerance of the invasive alga starry stonewort (Nitellopsis obtusa) as an indicator of overland spread risk

Wesley Glisson, Carli K. Wagner, Michael R Verhoeven, Ranjan Muthukrishnan, Rafael Contreras-Rangel, Daniel J Larkin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Human-assisted transport via recreational boats and
trailers is thought to account for most contemporary
movement of aquatic invasive species (AIS) among lakes.
The ability of invasive macrophytes to survive out of water,
that is, their desiccation tolerance, is an important indicator
of capacity for spread to new water bodies through overland
transport. Invasion by the alga starry stonewort (Nitellopsis
[Desv. in Loisel.] J. Groves; Characeae) in North
America is likely driven via overland transport, but little is
known regarding its ability to remain viable out of water.
We conducted laboratory and outdoor experiments to
evaluate desiccation tolerance of starry stonewort propagules,
including single stem fragments, small and large
clumps of fragments, and bulbils (asexual reproductive
structures). Propagules were removed from water for 15 min
to 5 d to identify desiccation thresholds. Fully desiccated
fragments and clumps lost ~90% of their original mass and
bulbils > 60% of original mass. Based on the most
conservative estimates from our experiments, starry stonewort
was no longer viable at 2 h for single fragments, 24 h
for small (5-g) clumps, 4 d for large (45-g) clumps, and 4 h
for bulbils. Overall, starry stonewort appears less tolerant of
desiccation than other invasive macrophytes that have been
evaluated, which comprise vascular plants rather than
Characean algae. Widely adopted guidance that boats
should dry on land for 5 d to prevent AIS spread should
suffice to prevent most starry stonewort spread between
water bodies, given that boaters comply with inspection
protocols and remove large, readily detected clumps.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)7-18
JournalJournal of Aquatic Plant Management
StatePublished - 2020


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