Research in limnology and ecology is a pillar in Limno Consulting's philosophy, and provides the basis for a solid output for consulting projects as well.  Continuous commitment and involvement in research-oriented projects also maintains a scientifically rigorous frame of mind and the knowledge necessary for robust deliverables at all levels.  To this end, collaborative research projects with academics and scientists at credited institutions are continuously sought, with considerable efforts in self-producing Limno Consulting's participation in some projects.  Limno Consulting also strives to publish much of its research in international, peer-reviewed scientific journals — that is, venues for which the international standards for scientific research must be met to allow publication.  Though Limno Consulting carries out all kinds of research, emphasis is on hypothesis-testing, quantitative, experimental research projects.  Participation at professional and academic Conferences, Symposia, and workshops also contributes to keep in touch with the current views and problematics in limnology.

Partly because of its recent establishment as a self-contained, independent business, much of Limno Consulting's expertise and experience in academic-level and applied research lies with its founder and sole proprietor, Dr. Lombardo.  A description of Dr. Lombardo's personal experience is under the About tab.

Though interest remains high in all areas of limnology and shallow-water ecology, academic-oriented research at Limno Consulting focuses on freshwater macro- phytes and macroinvertebrates, with an emphasis on gastropods.

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Macrophyte ecology is at the center of many of Limno Consulting's research and consulting projects, the difference between the two often being a fine, blurred line.  For example, Limno Consulting is currently involved in the final stages of a large-scale project concerning the spread of the invasive nonnative macrophyte species Elodea canadensis in (Lake) Steinsfjord, a large, clear-water lowland lake in southeastern Norway.

Elodea canadensis, or Canadian waterweed, is a fully-submerged perennial native of North America that has spread throughout temperate Europe since its introduction as an ornamental plant in Britain and Ireland in the 1830s.  E. canadensis is the most widespread nonnative aquatic plant in Europe, reported from 41 of the 46 European countries (Dr. A. Hussner, Düsseldorf, Germany: personal communication), and is the only freshwater macrophyte listed among the 100 most invasive alien species in Europe in the DAISIE project.  elodea in steinsfjord 2-BE. canadensis is aptly called "vasspest" ("water pest") in Norwe- gian.  Invasion of a water- body by E. canadensis is often explosive, with nega- tive impacts (loss of macro- phyte diversity, depletion of sediment nutrients) typically overcoming posi- tive effects (increased water transparency).  E. ca- nadensis seems to have finally lost its aggres- siveness peak in Europe, only to the advantage of the taxonomically close nonnative and as aggressive Elodea nuttallii and Lagarosiphon major.  DAISIE reports that damages to local ecosystems — either as loss of biodiversity or as impaired ecosystem services — by invasive nonnative species often run in the million euros.

The Norwegian Institute for Water Research (NIVA), based in Oslo, is the leader of the Steinsfjord project, funded by the Norwegian Research Council.  Limno Consulting has participated in the elaboration of the data originally collected in situ by NIVA, and is currently actively involved in the publication of the results in peer-reviewed scientific journals.  The first published results of the Steinsfjord project (Mjelde et al. 2012) confirm the tendency to decreased local biodiversity and nutrient depletion of lake sediments by E. canadensis and closely related species. 

Clear e TurbidOHLakes1998 NIVA and Limno Consulting are still working together to further unravel the mechanisms of E. canadensis's initial aggressiveness, interim dominance, and eventual (partial) local demise in an effort to contribute to the management of this invasive species.  NIVA and Limno Consulting continue to develop joint research projects on many aspects of applied macrophyte ecology.  Joint NIVA― Limno Consulting projects under development also include collabo- rations with the La Sapienza State University of Rome and the University of Parma, aimed mainly at discerning geographical patterns in Elodea distribution and aggressiveness along a North-South gradient in Europe.  The results were presented at the 8th "Shallow Lakes" International Conference held in Antalya, Turkey, in October 2014, and the associated paper is in preparation.

Other macrophyte research at Limno Consulting focuses on the ability of submerged plants to maintain or even enhance water transparency in shallow-water ecosystems.  The antagonistic relationship between submerged plants and suspended phytoplankton has been observed since the early times of quantitative ecology.  More recent empirical and theoretical evidence points to a pivotal role of submerged vegetation in controlling the biomass of suspended algae.  In one of the earliest manipulative investigations, a team of British researchers [Balls et al., Freshwater Biology 22 (1989): 71-87] found that water-column total phosphorus concentration and chlorophyll a concentration (a proxy for phytoplankton biomass) increased proportionately with increasing experimental external nutrient (phosphorus) loading in ponds previously cleared of submerged vegetation, but not in untouched, vegetated ponds.  The ensuing decade of empirical and modeling works led to the formulation of the alternate stable state theory, according to which shallow, productive lakes exist in one of two mutually exclusive states: either turbid and phytoplankton-dominated, or clear-water and macrophyte-dominated.  The two states are stable and resist change, and the shift from one state to the other can occur only following drastic or "catastrophic" events, such as the hurricane-related almost-total removal of submerged vegetation in Lake Okeechobee in Florida [Havens et al., Ambio 25 (1996): 150-155], or the human interventions in and around Lake Massaciuccoli in central Italy [Spandre & Meriggi, pp. 23-91 in: Lago di Massaciuccoli — Tredici Ricerche Finalizzate al Risanamento, Secondo Contributo, M. Cenni (ed.), Ente Parco Regionale Migliarino-San Rossore-Massaciuccoli, Pisa, Italy].

Several factors, often acting simultaneously and synergically, seem to be involved in phytoplankton inhibition by submerged vegetation.  Limno Consulting has been cooperating with researchers at NIVA and in Germany on projects attempting to shed some light on one of the most elusive of such factors, namely the allelopathic action of macrophytes on phytoplankton.  Allelopathy is the disruptive action of secondary metabolites ("allelochemicals") produced by donor species on the metabolism or growth of target species.  Though any photosynthetic organism is a potential allelochemical producer, projects typically focus on macrophytes as donors and phytoplankton as targets, due to the applicative nature of this line of research.  The first article on this subject has been published (Lombardo et al. 2013), while other manuscripts from these allelopathy-centered research projects are in the final stages of pre-publication.


The other primary line of research at Limno Consulting focuses on freshwater gastropods, with long-term snail cultures maintained at Limno Consulting to provide material for experimental research.  Experimental snails are maintained parasite- and predator-free and are fed ad libitum with natural foods and fresh lettuce, occasionally complemented with highly nutritive artificial foods (e.g., commercially available food for ornamental fishes).  All snails, including field-collected parental snails permanently quarantined for possible parasites, are treated humanely.  Research with snails does not involve exposure to contaminants of any kind.  Currently, around ten snail species are kept at Limno Consulting for research purposes, favoring projects aimed at between-species comparisons.  Nonnative species are handled with extra care, avoiding any export of viable snails at any stage of development (i.e., including eggs).  Such nonnative species will be eventually phased out by means of aggressive birth control (destruction of pre-hatching eggs).

Aquatic snails typically do not eat fresh macrophyte tissue, but are avid consumers of decaying plant leaves and of the biofilm that covers submerged plant leaves, collectively called periphyton.  Snails also are more effective grazers than other benthic macroinvertebrates, mostly due to snail higher individual biomass.  PlanorbisCarinatus-2As a result of the continuous removal of the thick top layers of periphyton, snails actually tend to benefit submerged plants by increasing plant access to light, carbon, and other nutrients necessary for photosynthetic metabolism.  Such mechanisms have led some scientists to propose "green" ways to manage nutrient-rich, shallow lakes by enhancing local gastropod populations (e.g., by artificially decreasing the density of fish predators) to indirectly enhance macrophyte well-being and, with it, increase water transparency.  Though the cause of the otherwise high phytoplankton biomass (i.e., high nutrient concentration) is not addressed, the result would be a much more desirable high water transparency.  Clear and nutrient-rich lakes also may serve as reservoirs for game or commercial fisheries.  Such a benthic biomanipulation would involve an initial large effort but, if properly conducted, would have long-lasting positive effects and would involve relatively low maintenance costs.



Recent collaborations with Dr. Elisabeth M. Gross (currently a professor at the LIEBE Department of the University of Lorraine in Metz, France) at the renowned Limnological Institute of the University of Konstanz, Germany, have focused on the interactions between the common pond snail Lymnaea stagnalis and the allelopathically active macrophyte Myriophyllum spicatum (Eurasian or spiked watermilfoil).  Also due to its relatively large individual body size, L. stagnalis is one of the very few European gastropod species capable of inflicting substantial losses to living macrophytes.  The first scientific article describing one such experimental project has recently been published in Hydrobiologia (Gross & Lombardo in press), while other manuscripts are in preparation.

lymnaea on myryophyllum KN 1-BSnail―macrophyte interactions are also included in a project aimed at the biological control of nuisance mosquitoes in the warm-temperate, humid southwestern suburban settings of Rome, Italy.  Being in essence a form of biomanipulation, the project aims at a quantitative assessment of a "green", low-maintenance and sustainable way to control mosquitoes in areas that favor high mosquito densities.  The project is being codeveloped with the landscaping firm Cepurica of Rome, Italy.

An ongoing projepiediluco moss 1-B2ct involves an in situ survey of macroinverte- brate―moss interactions in the shallow lake littoral in Lake Piediluco (central Italy).  The purpose of the survey is to test the hypothesis that the scattered, sparse clumps of a common semi- aquatic moss (Fontinalis anti- pyretica) at an otherwise unvege- tated site along the northern shoreline of Lake Piediluco enhance local benthic diversity despite moss scattered presence.  The prelimi- narily elaborated data point to a confirmation of such a hypothesis, with distinct macroinvertebrate assemblages on the gravel bottom and on moss, and a few taxa found exclusively on either substratum.  The results have implications also in view of the recent suggestions by European researchers that mosses have a high value for bio- monitoring purposes.  The project is carried out in cooperation with macrophyte and macroinvertebrate scientists at the University of L'Aquila and at NIVA.

While some snail-centered research projects at Limno Consulting involve direct snail―macrophyte interactions, others are aimed at investigating some as yet poorly known aspects of basic snail ecology and interspecific interactions within benthic macroinvertebrate communities.

Limno Consulting maintains an active research collaboration with Prof. Bruno Cicolani and Dr. Antonio Di Sabatino and their Ecology Laboratory at the University of L'Aquila, Italy.  Such a line of research centers on benthic macroinvertebrates, the area of expertise common to both Limno Consulting and the Ecology Lab at the University of L'Aquila, with Limno Consulting taking the lead on lake, snail-focused projects and the Ecology Lab managing projects on stream water mites and macroinvertebrate communities at large.  Such a collaboration has led to peer-reviewed articles (e.g., Miccoli et al. 2013; Di Sabatino et al. 2014, 2016).

DugesiaPolychroa-1Recent snail-centered investigations carried out at or with the University of L'Aquila were aimed at specific aspects of snail―planarian interactions in shallow lake habitats.  While the interactions between lacustrine gastropods and their major predators (fish, crayfish) have been extensively studied, the effects of potential macroinvertebrate predators on similarly sized snails are much less clear.  In particular, the ability of dugesiid planarias to actively prey on snails remains unclear, despite the long tradition of targeted research conducted since the late 1950s, especially in Britain.  The collaborative research project on snail―dugesiid interactions has investigated little known aspects such as the potential temporal partitioning between predator and prey and planarian predation on snails at the stage of eggs.  Most of such projects have involved an experimental approach and have focused on species common in lakes of central Italy, especially the pulmonate snail Physa acuta, possibly a key periphyton grazer and macrophyte enhancer in nutrient-rich shallow-water habitats, and the planarian Schmidtea (=Dugesia) polychroa. RadixBalthica HatchingEggsMost such projects have been recently published in scientific journals (e.g., Lombardo et al. 2011, 2012).  However, such experiments have led to other open questions, also because of the inherent difficulty of handling planarias in controlled experiments.  More experiments are being developed to attempt to address the many questions that are still unanswered.

A recent line of research involving freshwater gastropods, also carried out in collaboration with the University of L'Aquila, has centered on a semimanipulative, multiple-species comparative experiment on the effects of periodic exposure to air on gastropod eggs, simulating daily fluctuations in lake water level.  Eight pulmonate species, producing morphologically different egg clutches, have been compared in a cross-gradient experiment involving five distinct exposure times.  Preliminarily elaborated data strongly suggest that only the large pulmonate Lymnaea stagnalis, which lays eggs in a gelatinous matrix surrounded by a rupture-resistant outer membrane and a water-logged sheath, is capable of withstanding prolonged exposure to dry conditions as eggs.  LymnaeaStagnalisWithClutchSuch a result has implications for the composition of shallow-water snail communities in habitats subjected to periodic changes in water level.  Because L. stagnalis is one of the few European snail species capable of consuming living macrophyte tissue, population recruitment skewed in favor of L. stagnalis may have repercussions also on the composition of macrophyte communities.  The data are discussed also in light of the expected (and sometimes also observed) wider fluctuations in water level due to the changing climate and weather patterns.  The scientific article describing the experiment is currently in preparation.

A quantitative experiment focusing on the possible impact of the North American nonnative Helisoma trivolvis (common ramshorn) on the European native planorbid Planorbarius corneus is currently under way.  H. trivolvis is not present in the wild in Europe, but colonization is possible as escapees from ornamental aquaria, as H. trivolvis — especially in the bright orange albino form — is often intentionally traded or accidentally transferred with plants.  P. corneus and H. trivolvis are morphologically and ecologically similar, but the higher reproductive output of H. trivolvis is expected to eventually take over P. corneus in coexistence experimental aquaria.  The experiment is carried out in collaboration with Dr. F. Paolo Miccoli at the University of L'Aquila and with Mr. Massimo Evangelista at the City Museum of Natural History of Carmagnola (Turin).

Pla-Hel 1Other recent applied research efforts at Limno Consulting involve the development and testing of macrophyte- (with NIVA) and macroinvertebrate-based environmental indices (with the University of L'Aquila) applicable to water quality monitoring within the context of the European Union's Water Framework Directive (WFD).  Both topics are studied with a rigorous scientific approach, and the data from such projects, currently at different stages of elaboration, are expected to be organized into scientific articles to be submitted to peer-reviewed journals.

Limno Consulting also has been involved in the ecological characterization of high-altitude (~1800 m a.s.l.), small Lake Pantaniello in a protected natural area in montane Abruzzo.  Limno Consulting provided an expert characterization of the macrophyte community and lake trophic status within a team of experts specialized on benthic macroinvertebrates, fish, and amphibians, and contributed to the whole-lake management recommendations.  Prof. Antonio Di Sabatino of the University of L'Aquila was the project manager.  Ongoing collaborations with Prof. Di Sabatino focus on sampling methods in benthic macroinvertebrate ecology in lotic systems (e.g., Di Sabatino et al. 2014).

A collaboration focusing on basic and applied aspects of shallow groundwater fauna (e.g., bioindication) has been in place with Prof. Diana M. P. Galassi, also at the University of L'Aquila, within the EU-funded AquaLife Project.  The project main aim is to develop a science-based yet user-friendly quantification of groundwater faunal diversity for biomonitoring purposes.  Details on the AquaLife project can be found under the "Projects" tab and at the AquaLife project website.  The project leader is the Gran Sasso and Laga Mountains National Park, one of Italy's largest national parks, and home of the Gran Sasso massif, featuring the highest mountain south of the Alps and the southernmost glacier in Europe.  A concise summary (in Italian) of the AquaLife project is also available at the Gran Sasso and Laga Mountains National Park website.  The collaboration with Prof. Galassi has led to the production of the first scientific papers on groundwater ecology coauthored by Dr. Lombardo of Limno Consulting (Galassi et al. 2014; Di Lorenzo et al. 2015).

Research at Limno Consulting reaches out to a wide range of basic and applied topics within the ecology of shallow-water ecosystems and littoral―pelagic coupling. If you are interested in a research partnership with Limno Consulting, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .

A list of scientific articles published by Dr. Lombardo under Limno Consulting and/or under academic affiliations is in the Publications section.  Such articles also include literature references describing in detail the topics outlined above.  The list changes often due to Limno Consulting's active research endeavors and publication efforts, so please visit our Pubs section often!

Abstracts and full-texts of most scientific articles are also available on Dr. Lombardo's online profile at ResearchGate.

Limno Consulting di Paola Lombardo

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